16 deadly events from Hajj history

Published September 17th, 2015 - 08:04 GMT

Earlier this month, a construction crane crashed through the roof of Mecca’s Grand Mosque, killing 107 people and wounding over 200 others. The horrific accident occurred during a sandstorm that brought high winds to the Gulf nation. Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz ordered the state to pay each of the victims’ families 1 million Saudi riyals ($267,000 USD) in compensation. Meanwhile, the construction firm in charge of an expansion project at the mosque has had its projects suspended.   

The crane collapse -- which occurred just ten days before the annual Hajj -- is far from the first tragedy to befall Muslim worshipers during the annual pilgrimage. It’s also far from the most deadly. Over the past 40 years, a string of fires, stampedes, terror attacks, police clashes and bus crashes have claimed the lives of thousands of people.

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mina tent city mecca hajj

In December 1975, a fire in a tent city at Mina, a few miles east of Mecca, killed about 200 people during Eid Al Adha celebrations. The fire was reportedly started by an exploding gas tank inside a tent in an area where mostly Turkish and Nigerian muslims were camping.

saudi terrorists grand mosque 1979

In December of 1979, several hundred armed militants smuggled weapons in the Grand Mosque on the last day of the Hajj, taking thousands of pilgrims as hostages and demanding their leader be recognized as the messiah. They held the mosque for two weeks before the Saudi army stormed it. Over 230 people were killed.

iranian protesters hajj mecca

In July 1987, Iranian Shia pilgrims held an anti-Western demonstration on the eve of the Hajj at the Grand Mosque in Mecca. The protest quickly got out of hand as Saudi security forces sought to suppress it. Over 400 people, most of them Iranian Shias, were killed during the hours-long riot.

kuwaitis executed saudi arabia bomb hajj terrorism

Two bombs exploded in July 1989 during the annual Hajj, killing one and wounding over a dozen others. Saudi Arabia later convicted 16 Kuwaiti Shia Muslims of planting the bombs, and beheaded them in public. Saudi officials blamed Iran for ordering the attacks; Iran denied the charge.

muslim pilgrims mecca tunnel hajj

The worst Hajj-related disaster in history occurred in July 1990, when 1,426 people died inside a pedestrian tunnel leading from Mecca to the city of Mina, where pilgrims stay during the Hajj. Many died from suffocation. At the time, Saudi officials blamed the pilgrims for not “following instructions.”

stoning of satan pillar mecca hajj

In May 1994, during the “Stoning of Satan” ritual -- where pilgrims throw rocks at pillars representing the devil -- 270 people were killed as a crush of people pressed forward into a partly-enclosed area in the city of Mina. Most of the dead were from Indonesia.

mina tent city mecca hajj pilgrims

In April 1997, a fire killed over 300 people and wounded over 1,000 others in a pilgrims’ tent city in Mina, near Mecca. The blaze was reportedly started by exploding cooking gas canisters, and was fanned by high winds. Witnesses said many of the deaths were actually caused by stampedes of panicking people.

mecca hajj crowd of pilgrims

In April 1998, on the final day of that year’s Hajj, at least 118 people were killed on the Jamarat Bridge, an elevated walkway that became crowded during the “Stoning of Satan” rite. Some were trampled while others fell to their deaths. The incident reportedly started when people tripped over luggage that had been dropped on the bridge.

dead pilgrim stampede hajj mecca

Another 35 pilgrims were trampled to death in March 2001 during the “Stoning of Satan” ritual, which occurs on the first day of the Muslim feast of Eid Al-Adha. Saudi Arabia’s then-Interior Minister, Prince Nayef bin Abdul Aziz, admitted that Saudi authorities bore partial responsibility for not having properly organized the massive event.

crashed bus jordan dead hajj pilgrims

In December 2001, a bus carrying mostly Egyptian pilgrims returning from Mecca careened off the road in southern Jordan, killing all 52 people on board. Jordanian authorities said the crash happened when the vehicle’s brakes failed on a curvy mountainous road near Aqaba.

dead pilgrims hajj mecca stampede

In February of 2003, 14 Muslim pilgrims were killed in a stampede during the “Stoning of Satan” ritual, when thousands of people were passing through a narrow passageway between Mount Arafat and their tent encampments at Mina.

crowd pilgrims hajj mecca

In February 2004, 244 people were killed and another 200 injured during another stampede during the “Stoning of Satan” ritual. The stampede reportedly lasted for 27 minutes before authorities got it under control. Following the incident, Saudi Arabia erected safety barriers to prevent another such tragedy from occurring in the future.

hotel collapse hajj mecca

During the Hajj in 2006, a four-storey hotel just 60 meters from the walls of Mecca’s Great Mosque collapsed, killing 76 people and wounding dozens of others. Because most of the hotel’s guests were praying at the time of collapse, the structure was largely empty. Many of the dead were passersby.

stoning of satan hajj mecca

One week after the hotel collapse, a stampede in Mina killed over 345 pilgrims, making it the deadliest such incident since 1990. The stampede occurred at the Jamarat Bridge, a notorious bottleneck where similar incidents had occurred before. Later that year Saudi authorities replaced the bridge with a 4-storey structure to improve overcrowding.

crane collapse mecca

In September 2015 -- ten days before the Hajj -- a crane collapsed during a powerful storm, crashing through the roof of the Grand Mosque during Friday prayers. At least 107 people were killed, and over 200 others were wounded.

MERS hajj saudi arabia

Though the situation appears to be currently under control, there are well-founded fears that a MERS outbreak could occur during this year’s Hajj or during future pilgrimages. MERS has a 40% death rate and has affected Saudi Arabia more than any country. The contagious virus is thought to come from camels and spread faster in close conditions.

mina tent city mecca hajj
saudi terrorists grand mosque 1979
iranian protesters hajj mecca
kuwaitis executed saudi arabia bomb hajj terrorism
muslim pilgrims mecca tunnel hajj
stoning of satan pillar mecca hajj
mina tent city mecca hajj pilgrims
mecca hajj crowd of pilgrims
dead pilgrim stampede hajj mecca
crashed bus jordan dead hajj pilgrims
dead pilgrims hajj mecca stampede
crowd pilgrims hajj mecca
hotel collapse hajj mecca
stoning of satan hajj mecca
crane collapse mecca
MERS hajj saudi arabia
mina tent city mecca hajj
In December 1975, a fire in a tent city at Mina, a few miles east of Mecca, killed about 200 people during Eid Al Adha celebrations. The fire was reportedly started by an exploding gas tank inside a tent in an area where mostly Turkish and Nigerian muslims were camping.
saudi terrorists grand mosque 1979
In December of 1979, several hundred armed militants smuggled weapons in the Grand Mosque on the last day of the Hajj, taking thousands of pilgrims as hostages and demanding their leader be recognized as the messiah. They held the mosque for two weeks before the Saudi army stormed it. Over 230 people were killed.
iranian protesters hajj mecca
In July 1987, Iranian Shia pilgrims held an anti-Western demonstration on the eve of the Hajj at the Grand Mosque in Mecca. The protest quickly got out of hand as Saudi security forces sought to suppress it. Over 400 people, most of them Iranian Shias, were killed during the hours-long riot.
kuwaitis executed saudi arabia bomb hajj terrorism
Two bombs exploded in July 1989 during the annual Hajj, killing one and wounding over a dozen others. Saudi Arabia later convicted 16 Kuwaiti Shia Muslims of planting the bombs, and beheaded them in public. Saudi officials blamed Iran for ordering the attacks; Iran denied the charge.
muslim pilgrims mecca tunnel hajj
The worst Hajj-related disaster in history occurred in July 1990, when 1,426 people died inside a pedestrian tunnel leading from Mecca to the city of Mina, where pilgrims stay during the Hajj. Many died from suffocation. At the time, Saudi officials blamed the pilgrims for not “following instructions.”
stoning of satan pillar mecca hajj
In May 1994, during the “Stoning of Satan” ritual -- where pilgrims throw rocks at pillars representing the devil -- 270 people were killed as a crush of people pressed forward into a partly-enclosed area in the city of Mina. Most of the dead were from Indonesia.
mina tent city mecca hajj pilgrims
In April 1997, a fire killed over 300 people and wounded over 1,000 others in a pilgrims’ tent city in Mina, near Mecca. The blaze was reportedly started by exploding cooking gas canisters, and was fanned by high winds. Witnesses said many of the deaths were actually caused by stampedes of panicking people.
mecca hajj crowd of pilgrims
In April 1998, on the final day of that year’s Hajj, at least 118 people were killed on the Jamarat Bridge, an elevated walkway that became crowded during the “Stoning of Satan” rite. Some were trampled while others fell to their deaths. The incident reportedly started when people tripped over luggage that had been dropped on the bridge.
dead pilgrim stampede hajj mecca
Another 35 pilgrims were trampled to death in March 2001 during the “Stoning of Satan” ritual, which occurs on the first day of the Muslim feast of Eid Al-Adha. Saudi Arabia’s then-Interior Minister, Prince Nayef bin Abdul Aziz, admitted that Saudi authorities bore partial responsibility for not having properly organized the massive event.
crashed bus jordan dead hajj pilgrims
In December 2001, a bus carrying mostly Egyptian pilgrims returning from Mecca careened off the road in southern Jordan, killing all 52 people on board. Jordanian authorities said the crash happened when the vehicle’s brakes failed on a curvy mountainous road near Aqaba.
dead pilgrims hajj mecca stampede
In February of 2003, 14 Muslim pilgrims were killed in a stampede during the “Stoning of Satan” ritual, when thousands of people were passing through a narrow passageway between Mount Arafat and their tent encampments at Mina.
crowd pilgrims hajj mecca
In February 2004, 244 people were killed and another 200 injured during another stampede during the “Stoning of Satan” ritual. The stampede reportedly lasted for 27 minutes before authorities got it under control. Following the incident, Saudi Arabia erected safety barriers to prevent another such tragedy from occurring in the future.
hotel collapse hajj mecca
During the Hajj in 2006, a four-storey hotel just 60 meters from the walls of Mecca’s Great Mosque collapsed, killing 76 people and wounding dozens of others. Because most of the hotel’s guests were praying at the time of collapse, the structure was largely empty. Many of the dead were passersby.
stoning of satan hajj mecca
One week after the hotel collapse, a stampede in Mina killed over 345 pilgrims, making it the deadliest such incident since 1990. The stampede occurred at the Jamarat Bridge, a notorious bottleneck where similar incidents had occurred before. Later that year Saudi authorities replaced the bridge with a 4-storey structure to improve overcrowding.
crane collapse mecca
In September 2015 -- ten days before the Hajj -- a crane collapsed during a powerful storm, crashing through the roof of the Grand Mosque during Friday prayers. At least 107 people were killed, and over 200 others were wounded.
MERS hajj saudi arabia
Though the situation appears to be currently under control, there are well-founded fears that a MERS outbreak could occur during this year’s Hajj or during future pilgrimages. MERS has a 40% death rate and has affected Saudi Arabia more than any country. The contagious virus is thought to come from camels and spread faster in close conditions.

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