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Hajj stampede: 244 pilgrims dead

The body of a stampede victim lies Sunday at a medical station in Mecca, Saudi Arabia.
The body of a stampede victim lies Sunday at a medical station in Mecca, Saudi Arabia.

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Muslims were trampled to death during the annual pilgrimage to Mecca.
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MECCA, Saudi Arabia (CNN) -- A stampede Sunday morning killed 244 Muslim pilgrims and injured another 244 at a stone-throwing ritual which has been the source of deadly tramplings in the past, according to Saudi's health minister.

The incident happened around 9 a.m. (0600 GMT) during the annual Hajj pilgrimage. The health minister said the stampede lasted for about 27 minutes before the crowd was brought under control. The stoning ritual has since resumed.

Seven of those hurt were seriously injured.

The pilgrims traveled from the Muslim holy city of Mecca to Mina to cast small pebbles at three columns of stone that symbolize the devil.

An estimated 2 million pilgrims are attending this year's Hajj.

Last year, 36 pilgrims were trampled to death, most of them en route to the devil stoning ritual.

In 2001, a stampede at the same ritual killed 35.

Muslims across the globe make the annual Hajj pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia, where they worship at Islam's holiest sites. The five-day journey -- which every adult Muslim must take at least once if possible -- began Jan. 31.

The gathering of millions is often the scene of deadly stampedes and other violence.

The most deadly Hajj-related incident was a 1990 stampede in which 1,426 pilgrims were killed.

Here is a breakdown of other violent incidents at the annual Muslim pilgrimage:

1998 - 180 people died in a stampede near Mecca at the end of the Hajj;

1997 - A fire in Mina tore through the sprawling, overcrowded tent city , trapping and killing more than 340 pilgrims and injuring 1,500;

1994 - a stampede kills 270 pilgrims;

1991 - a chartered airliner carrying pilgrims home to Nigeria crashed, killing 261;

1991 - a plane crash in northern Saudi Arabia killed 91 Senegalese soldiers returning from a trip to Mecca which had been a reward for their service in the U.S.-led coalition that drove Iraqi forces from Kuwait in the Gulf War a month earlier;

1989 - bombs exploded near the Grand Mosque in Mecca, killing one pilgrim and wounding 16 others;

1987 - some 400 people, mainly Iranian Shi'ite pilgrims, were killed in clashes with Saudi security forces during anti-Western protests in Mecca.

-- CNN Correspondent Rym Brahimi and Producer Ayman Mohyeldin contributed to this report

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