Tunisia’s president dismisses minister amid rising hajj death toll

Tunisian President Kais Saied on Friday dismissed Ibrahim Chaibi, the minister of religious affairs.

This decision followed reports of 49 Tunisian deaths during this year’s Hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia, as stated by the presidency.

The announcement, shared on Facebook, did not provide further details about Chaibi’s dismissal.

Earlier in the week, the Tunisian foreign ministry had reported 35 pilgrim deaths, a number that has since increased to 49, according to local media.

The ministry did not confirm if the fatalities were due to high temperatures.

Most of the deceased had traveled on tourist visas, bypassing the Saudi government’s official pilgrimage program, which uses a quota system.

Securing official pilgrimage permits can be expensive, leading many to opt for irregular routes that are significantly cheaper.

This trend has grown since Saudi Arabia began issuing general tourist visas in 2019, facilitating travel to the kingdom.

Deaths during the pilgrimage were also reported by several other countries, including Malaysia, India, and Egypt.

An AFP tally on Friday listed 1,126 total fatalities, over half from Egypt. This year, 1.8 million pilgrims participated, with 1.6 million coming from abroad.

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