Tunisian president fires religious official after heat deaths during Hajj

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Tunisian President Kais Saied has fired the country’s minister of religious affairs after it was confirmed that 49 Tunisian pilgrims were killed during the annual Islamic hajj in Saudi Arabia amid scorching heat.

Saïed has decided to end Ibrahim Chaibi’s duties, Tunisia’s official news agency TAP reported on Friday, citing a presidential statement that provided no explanation.

The move came shortly after Chaibi confirmed 49 deaths among Tunisian pilgrims, mainly due to high temperatures during the rituals.

The fatalities included 44 unregistered pilgrims who had embarked on the religious journey on tourist visas, Chaibi said.

According to TAP, he acknowledged the possibility of negligence in the supervision of the pilgrims.

Temperatures in the Saudi city of Mecca and other nearby holy sites hovered around 50 degrees Celsius through the last day of pilgrimage on Tuesday.

Several Arab governments said most of the pilgrims who died in Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam, were unregistered and had traveled on tourist visas, making it harder to find them.

About 1.8 million pilgrims took part in the hajj, one of the five pillars of Islam, this year.

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