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Kenyan Muslims agony over Mecca tragedy

COAST
By Philip Mwakio | September 28th 2015

Kenya's Muslims are speaking of their frustration in getting information regarding the whereabouts of their kin still in Saudi Arabia.

They are demanding answers following last Thursday's stampede in Saudi's Mina that claimed more than 700 lives, among them eight Kenyans, during one of the last rituals of the Hajj.

Yesterday, Supreme Council for Kenya Muslims (Supkem) asked all travel agents who handled Kenyan pilgrims travelling to this year's Hajj to establish their whereabouts.

Speaking on phone yesterday, Supkem Secretary General Adan Wachu condoled with families of those killed in the accident and disclosed that the over 40 travel agents who processed Kenya's pilgrims for this year's Hajj where to carry out a head count to ascertain the whereabouts of pilgrims.

"We are not getting information following the two subsequent incidents which occurred as over two million Muslim pilgrims gathered for the Hajj in the Saudi Kingdom," said Mr Wachu.

He said Supkem was in touch with Head of the Kenyan Hajj Mission Shariff Hussein for the latest information on the number of Kenyans killed, missing or unaccounted for.

Even as Wachu made the pronouncements, a cross-section of Muslim leaders called for faster and conclusive investigations into the incident which claimed the largest number of pilgrims.

Coast Supkem Chairman Sheikh Mohdhar Khitamy said Kenya's Muslim organisations will push for a thorough re-examination of the whole pilgrimage exercise once the entire Kenyan hajj delegation is back.

IDENTIFYING GAPS

"We are anxious to know what actually befell our people who went for hajj and will be keen to identify any gaps and challenges that need to be rectified so as to have an incident-free hajj next year," Sheikh Khitamy said.

He conceded that they had not been able to get daily updates on the whereabouts of Kenyan pilgrims, save for media and social media reports.

On Friday, several Tanzanian newspapers reported that at least two pilgrims listed as Tanzanians, who were killed in last Thursday's stampede, were actually Kenyans after travelling to Saudi Arabia from Tanzania with facilitation of Tanzanian travel agencies.

The organisations have also denounced suggestions by Saudi Arabia kingdom authorities that indiscipline among African pilgrims caused the accident and asked all agencies that handled Kenya's 4,950 pilgrims to contact them and reconcile lists in order to establish the true number of casualties and fatalities.

Saudi Arabia has claimed that African Muslims caused the stampede in Mina leading to hundreds of deaths but many nations, led by Iran and Nigeria, have disputed this.

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