35 pilgrims killed in stampede near Mecca

Twenty-three women and 12 men were crushed to death in a stampede at the annual hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia Monday.

The 35 pilgrims were caught in a stampede at the Muslim hajj pilgrimage, during a ritual known as "devil-stoning." There was much pushing and shoving and most of those killed were crushed or suffocated.

It is not known how many people were injured.

A witness said the trouble began early Monday morning but was brought under control within about three hours.

Two million Muslims from around the globe descended on Mina a tent city that only comes to life during the hajj to perform the annual pilgrimage that is considered a pillar of the Islamic faith.

Muslims gather around three stone columns that represent the devil. Small pebbles are thrown at the columns while the pilgrims chant, "In the name of God, God is great." The ritual must be completed by dusk.

The columns are said to be where the devil attempted to convince the prophet Abraham to disobey God by refusing to sacrifice his son.

According to tradition, God instructed Abraham to sacrifice a sheep instead, and to celebrate the occasion, Muslims around the world now often sacrifice sheep and goats to mark Eid al-Adha, or the feast of sacrifice.

The official Saudi Press Agency said the pushing and shoving began at a bridge called Jamarat, near the holy city of Mecca.

Hospital workers say most of the injured were women and the elderly. The majority have been released, but dozens more are still in hospital with broken bones and more serious wounds.

Deadly stampedes during hajj are not uncommon and security has been a major concern.

Past disasters during the hajj

Dec. 4, 1979 75 Sunni Muslim extremists attempt to take over the Grand Mosque in Mecca but are gunned down by Saudi police. Dozens of Saudi troops are killed as well.

Aug. 3, 1980 Hundreds of pilgrims aboard a Pakistani jetliner die when it catches fire soon after takeoff from Jiddah to Riyadh, the Saudi capital. The plane breaks apart during an emergency landing, killing 301.

July 31, 1987 Security forces in Mecca battle with Iranians holding an anti-U.S. demonstration. 402 people, mostly Iranian pilgrims, are killed and 649 wounded.

July 9, 1989 Saudi authorities blame Iranian-inspired terrorists for detonating two bombs that explode in Mecca, killing one pilgrim and wounding 16.

July 2, 1990 In the worst-ever Hajj-related tragedy, 1,426 pilgrims are killed in a stampede in an overcrowded pedestrian tunnel leading to holy sites in Mecca.

May 23, 1994 A stampede during the stoning of the devil ritual results in the deaths of 270 pilgrims.

April 15, 1997 343 people died after being trapped in tents as fire rips through the overcrowded tent city of Mina. The fires, driven by high winds, trap thousands and injure 1,500.

April 9, 1998 Some 180 pilgrims are trampled to death after panic erupts when several people fall off an overpass during the stoning of the devil ritual.