Mali group criticizes Saudi response to hajj disaster

BAMAKO, Mali - A group of Malian families who lost loved ones in the Saudi hajj disaster in September has criticized the kingdom's response to the crush and stampede that killed at least 2,426 people.

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At least 320 pilgrims from the West African nation died in the Sept. 24 tragedy in Mina, the group told journalists gathered for a news conference in Mali's capital, Bamako. A lawyer representing them, Marcel Ceccaldi, told reporters the families were considering filing a legal complaint against the Saudi government in Mali and before the European Union.

Malick Konate, the leader of the victims' families, said the Malian government and travel agencies that organized the pilgrims' trips for the annual hajj had not helped in securing death certificates for those lost. He said families so far had only been able to get 40 death certificates.

Konate also alleged that state television and authorities "censored" the group's messages.

Authorities have said the Mina crush and stampede occurred when two waves of pilgrims converged on a narrow road, suffocating or trampling to death those caught in the disaster.

An Associated Press count, based on state media reports and officials' comments from 36 of the over 180 countries that sent citizens to the hajj, have established that the Sept. 24 crush was the deadliest incident in the history of the annual pilgrimage. The kingdom's official toll, released two days after the disaster, has remained unchanged at 769 people killed and 934 injured.

The second deadliest incident at hajj was a 1990 stampede that killed 1,426 people. The Sept. 11 crane collapse at Mecca's Grand Mosque, which preceded the Mina disaster, killed 111 people.



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