At least 16 people have died in accidents over recent days as Muslim pilgrims gathered for a major religious gathering in central Senegal, authorities said late on Tuesday.
The fatalities were reported in a total of 113 road accidents, according to Col. Sheikh Tine, commander of the National Fire Brigade (BNSP).
Accidents occurred while pilgrims were going to attend the Grand Magal of Touba, an annual religious pilgrimage of the Mouride Brotherhood, one of the four tariqas (Islamic Sufi orders) of Senegal.
The pilgrims gather every year in the holy Mouride city of Touba to celebrate the life and teachings of Sheikh Amadou Bamba, the founder of the Mouride Brotherhood.
On the overall security coverage of the event, Tine said officials made “197 interventions” since Oct. 3.
He said one person was killed in “another type of accident,” without giving more details.
Thousands of pilgrims will be departing Touba once the event ends with a with a traditional official ceremony on Wednesday.
Last year, at least 14 pilgrims died in traffic accidents while heading to or returning from the gathering.
Held on the 18th day of the second month of the Islamic calendar, the Grand Magal of Touba is the largest Muslim gathering in West Africa and attracts over 3 million pilgrims every year from across the sub-Saharan region.
Bamba, the brotherhood’s founder, is considered one of the greatest spiritual leaders in Senegal’s history and has immense influence on contemporary Senegalese life and culture.
He was exiled to Gabon and Mauritania for resisting French colonial and missionary activities in Senegal more than 125 years ago.