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Breaking News

As Many as 35 Killed in Hajj Stampede

Aired March 5, 2001 - 8:28 a.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

COLLEEN MCEDWARDS, CNN ANCHOR: Just an update on a breaking news story we've been telling you about here on CNN. Reports say as many as 35 people may have been killed during a stampede at the Hajj in Saudi Arabia. Now, the Hajj, as you may know, is an annual pilgrimage. It's a very important part of the Muslim faith. You may have seen the pictures of it over the weekend.

It's a huge amount of people in a small space. More than two million Muslims make the pilgrimage every year to the Hajj. And during one of the ceremonies, there was a stampede.

CNN has a reporter there in Mecca, who has details on this. And we are going to get those to you just as soon as we can. Actually, we do have him there now, I'm told -- Siraj Wahab, who's a journalist in Mecca.

Siraj, tell us what you know.

SIRAJ WAHAB, JOURNALIST: I'm in Mina, actually, where the accident took place. And I can confirm that there was a stampede. But I can't confirm the numbers of deaths there. The authorities outside think about the number of -- might have been a couple of bodies being removed from the area.

MCEDWARDS: What happened? Can you tell what happened that led up to this?

WAHAB: The pilgrims, they returned from (UNINTELLIGIBLE). They collected the pebbles to stone the devil in a symbolic ritual. And they have to stone a particular pillar for the symbolic ritual. And it did while they were about to stone the ritual, there was a stampede -- and two million people at one time. They were crowding to stone the devil. And things became out of -- you must realize that people coming here -- the pilgrims are coming from different nationalities, of different origins, different races and all that.

And they speak different languages. It's very difficult for the Saudi authority or any authority to control the situation where there are two million people populating the pilgrimage.

MCEDWARDS: Right, Siraj. And I know that every year there are concerns about crowd control. What kinds of controls were in place to deal with the sheer numbers of people? WAHAB: The basic responsibility lies with the governments who are sending the number of pilgrims, like pilgrims from Pakistan, pilgrims from India, pilgrims from Philippines, the pilgrims from Indonesia, from African nations and all that. They need to educate the pilgrims about how they should perform the ritual and how they should conduct themselves at the pilgrimage.

It's very difficult for the Saudi authorities to really man two million people.

MCEDWARDS: All right, Siraj Wahab, thanks very much. Siraj Wahab is a journalist who is in Mina covering the Hajj.

Again, CNN is reporting that as many as 35 people may have been killed. This is not confirmed yet. At this point, we don't have any confirmation of the numbers killed or the nationalities of the people who were involved in a stampede at the Hajj. But we'll keep you up to date here on CNN.

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