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Tunisian president sacks religious official after Hajj heat deaths

Jun 23, 2024

Tunis [Tunisia], June 23: Tunisian President Kais Saied has sacked the North African country's minister of religious affairs after 49 Tunisian pilgrims were confirmed dead in the annual Islamic Hajj in Saudi Arabia amid scorching heat.
Saied has decided to terminate Ibrahim Chaibi's tasks, Tunisia's official news agency TAP reported on Friday, quoting a presidential statement that did not give an explanation.
The step came shortly after Chaibi confirmed 49 deaths among Tunisian pilgrims mostly due to high temperatures during the rituals.
The fatalities included 44 unregistered pilgrims, who had gone on the religious journey on tourist visas, Chaibi said. He acknowledged the possibility of negligence in supervising the pilgrims, according to TAP.
The temperature in the Saudi city of Mecca and other nearby holy sites hovered around 50 degrees Celsius through Tuesday's final pilgrimage day.
Videos circulating online purportedly showed Muslim pilgrims lying dead on roads in Saudi Arabia after suffering heat strokes during the Hajj. So far, there has been no official Saudi comment.
Several Arab governments said most of the pilgrims who died in Saudi Arabia, Islam's birthplace, were not registered and had travelled on tourist visas, which made it harder to find them or determine their actual numbers.
Unregistered pilgrims usually have no access to accommodation and transportation services.
The Egyptian government is set to revoke licences of 16 tour operators for having organized illegal Hajj trips, Egyptian media said Saturday, amid unconfirmed reports that most of the deaths among unregistered pilgrims were Egyptians.
Prime Minister Mustafa Madbouly ordered the operators' licences withdrawn over fraud and their officials referred to prosecution, state-linked al-Qahera News TV reported.
Egypt's official Hajj mission this year comprised more than 50,000 pilgrims and 31 deaths were recorded dead among them due to chronic illnesses, Madbouly said, according to the online edition of the Egyptian state-run newspaper al-Ahram. There was no official word on fatalities among the unregistered pilgrims.
"The pilgrims, who lost their lives during this crisis are mostly unregistered. The tour companies, which arranged their travel, did not provide them with any services," Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said at a government crisis meeting, according to Egyptian state TV.
Some 1.8 million pilgrims took part in this year's Hajj.
One of the five pillars of Islam, the Hajj is a mandatory duty for all Muslims to complete once in a lifetime, if they have the financial and physical means to do so.
Source: Qatar Tribune