|BBC NEWS Thursday, 12 January 2006|
Hundreds killed in Hajj stampede
At least 345 Muslim pilgrims have died in a crush during the stone-throwing ritual at the Hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia, officials say.
Hundreds of pilgrims have also been injured. A BBC correspondent at the scene in Mina saw dozens of bodies lined up on the ground.
The ritual has seen many lethal stampedes but the number of dead this time is the highest in 16 years.
After a crush in 2004, barriers and stewards were added to improve safety.
The stampede took place at the foot of the bridge of Jamarat, where pilgrims hurl stones at three pillars representing the spot where the devil is said to have appeared to Abraham.
Map of stampede area in Mina
An interior ministry spokesman, Maj Gen Mansour al-Turki, told the Associated Press news agency the crush happened after pieces of luggage spilled from moving buses in front of one of the entrances to the bridge, causing pilgrims to trip.
At least 289 people were injured, according to the Saudi Health Minister Hamad bin Abdullah al-Maneh.