Don, female journalist among Nigerians killed in Hajj stampede …..PUNCH

A Professor of Arabic and Islamic Studies at the University of Maiduguri, Prof Tijani al-Miskin, and a female Nigerian veteran journalist, Bilkisu Yusuf, were among the 717 pilgrims who died in the Hajj stampede in Mecca on Thursday.

Over two million people are performing Hajj this year, including 70,000 Nigerians.

Eight hundred and sixty-three others were injured in the stampede.

The incident, which occurred during the “stoning of the devil ritual” in the Holy Land, was described as one of the deadliest in the last 25 years.

Yusuf, who was the first female editor from the North, was a graduate of political science and journalism. She pursued a successful career in journalism in Nigeria, working for Daily Trust and Leadership newspapers.

Another victim was Hafsat Shittu, who was a member of the Nigeria’s medical team in Mecca.

Reacting to the tragedy, the factional Deputy National President of the Nigeria Labour Congress, Mr. Issa Aremu, on Friday said though the death of pilgrims in Mecca was tragic, they did not die in vain.

Aremu, who spoke to journalists in Ilorin, described the incident as a spiritual accident.

He said, “We believe, as Muslims, that death is inevitable, but it is more exciting when one dies in the Holy Land.

“They died in the course of serving Almighty Allah. They did not die stealing money; they did not die destroying public property and they did not die killing people like suicide bombers, but they died while worshiping Allah.”

While the Saudi authorities blamed the incident on the pilgrims’ failure to follow crowd control rules, its regional rival, Iran, had expressed outrage at the deaths of 131 of its nationals, with Iranian politicians suggesting that Saudi authorities were incapable of managing the event.

“Death to the Saudi dynasty!” hundreds of demonstrators chanted at a protest in Tehran Iran, the Jerusalem Post reported.

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani also blamed Saudi Arabia for the incident.

“I ask the Saudi Arabian government to take responsibility for this catastrophe and fulfill its legal and Islamic duties in this regard,” Rouhani said in a statement published on the state news agency IRNA.

But Saudi Health Minister, Khalid al-Falih, assured that an investigation would be conducted and a final toll of the dead and wounded calculated.

“The investigations into the incident of the stampede that took place in Mina, which was perhaps because some pilgrims moved without following instructions by the relevant authorities, will be fast and will be announced as has happened in other incidents,” Falih said in a statement.

Saudi King Salman had also ordered a review of Hajj plans after the disaster, in which two big groups of pilgrims collided at a crossroads in Mina, a few miles east of Mecca, on their way to performing the “stoning of the devil” ritual at Jamarat.

However, a former Iraqi Prime Minister, Nuri al-Maliki, an ally of Iran and foe of Riyadh, said the incident was “proof of the incompetence of the organisers of the pilgrimage season.”

He suggested that the Hajj be placed under the authority of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, the world’s largest Muslim organisation.