At least two Indonesians were among more than 300 hajj pilgrims crushed to death in a stampede on the final day of the Muslim pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia, the government said Friday. Some Islamic leaders said Saudi Arabia should work harder to prevent such tragedies in the future, while others said the government did all it could to prepare the pilgrims.
"Of course I'm surprised ... this is not the first such incident," said Achmad Bagja of Nahdlatul Ulama, Indonesia's largest Muslim group. The Saudi government should be "better prepared in the future," he said. Thousands of pilgrims were rushing to complete the "stoning of the devil" ritual before sunset Thursday when a large pileup occurred, Saudi officials said.
Indonesian officials in Saudi Arabia have so far confirmed an Indonesian man and woman as among the dead, said Toto Sugiarto of Indonesia's Religious Affairs ministry. Amidhan, chairman of the Indonesian Ulema Council, said Saudi Arabia urged pilgrims to perform the stoning after midday prayers so they would avoid peak crowds.
But other countries failed to organize their pilgrims, the Detik.com news Web site quoted him as saying. More than 200,000 Muslims from Indonesia, the world's most populous Islamic nation, are in Mecca and Medina to perform the hajj, which is required at least once in a lifetime for able-bodied Muslims who can afford it, reports the AP. N.U.