Nigerians feared dead in Hajj stampede

Nigerian pilgrimage officials in Saudi Arabia met Thursday for an emergency briefing, amid reports Nigerians were among over 700 pilgrims killed in a stampede there Thursday.

The Saudi Civil Defense Authority confirmed that 717 died in the stampede at Mina during Jamarat.

Over 800 pilgrims were injured and were receiving treatment at various hospitals in and around the tent city of Mina, it said.

The tragedy happened during the symbolic stoning of the devil, as pilgrims pushed each other and surged forward under Mina’s hot temperature.

The Saudi government ordered investigation into the incident.

Authorities were yet to identify the victims of the disaster and it remained unclear whether Nigerians were affected.

The leader of the Nigerian delegation to the 2015 hajj and emir of Kano, Muhammad Sanusi, convened a meeting with officials of the National Hajj Commission, NAHCON, at a tent in Mina.

The meeting ended at about 7.45pm Nigerian time, but there was no statement to the media, our correspondent who is in Mina said.

An official of NAHCON who declined to be named because he was not permitted to speak to the media said the stampede was the main agenda of the meeting.

Sources at the meeting also said two Nigerians were confirmed to have died. They are Tijjani El-Miskin, a professor, and a veteran journalist, Bilkisu Yusuf.

The claims could not be verified. The two pilgrims could not also be reached.

Thursday’s incident was the deadliest at Mina since 1990, when 1,426 pilgrims lost their lives in a stampede.

Authorities in Saudi Arabia have over the years reconstructed the Jamarat raising it from a ground surface to a three floor edifice as a result of recurring fatalities.

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