MINA, Saudi Arabia, March 6 (AP) - Nearly 2 million pilgrims threw pebbles at pillars in a symbolic stoning of the devil Tuesday at a site where a day earlier 35 Muslims performing the ritual were crushed and trampled to death.

The tragedy during the annual pilgrimage to Mecca, or hajj, was the main topic of discussion among participants Tuesday, with many blaming overzealous pilgrims as well as bad organization.

On Tuesday, crowds of pilgrims moved patiently along the giant ramps surrounding the three stone pillars symbolizing the devil at which the faithful cast seven pebbles.

Pilgrims who had completed the ritual changed from their traditional hajj garbs - seamless white robes for men and modest head-to-toe costumes for women - and put on their usual clothes, their heads shaved in the tradition for those finishing the pilgrimage.

Many recalled the chaos from the day before.

``It was a very tough day. Our group passed it unhurt, thank God,'' said a Qatari pilgrim who wanted to be identified only by his first name, Jaber.

The government said in a statement that the deaths occured when some pilgrims in the massive crowds dropped luggage they were carrying, causing others to trip and fall amid the press of people. Besides the 23 women and 12 men killed, a total 107 people were injured, said the statement, carried by the official Saudi Press Agency.

The crush took three hours to get under control, witnesses said. An Egyptian journalist who was performing the ritual at the time said he saw a few people at a time suffocate or fall and be trampled to death.

``The ramps were extremely congested,'' said Jaber, the Qatari pilgrim, who also witnessed the chaos. ``People, in the tens of thousands, were pushing and shoving. People used the entrance to the ramps also as their exit, resulting in a massive crowd getting stuck in a small area. It was two-way traffic on a one-way road.''

Saudi Interior Minister Prince Nayef blamed pilgrims for the deaths, saying ``they should allow everyone to perform their rituals and they should show tolerance, calmness and forgiveness toward each other.''

Saudi authorities have not disclosed the victims' nationalities but diplomatic officials said at least seven were from Pakistan, two from India and two from Egypt.

Most of the victims died of suffocation, said Saad bin Abdallah al-Tuwegry, a Saudi civil defense chief. ``A stampede resulted when the older people in the crowd couldn't move as fast as others,'' he told SPA on Monday.

An official at the Mina General Hospital said most of the injured suffered fractures.

Security and safety have been major concerns at the hajj, the annual pilgrimage that according to Islam must be performed once in a lifetime by every Muslim who is able to do so. Hundreds of hajj participants have been killed in stampedes in recent years, in several cases at the stoning the devil ritual. In addition, scores die every year of natural causes, mainly the elderly.

Some Muslims will end the pilgrimage on Tuesday, but most will stay on for an optional third day of stoning.

On Tuesday, volunteers standing on top of refrigerated trucks provided by the government tossed free packs of juice, water and milk to pilgrims crowding round.

In the tent city that grows up around Mina each year, pick-ups with huge pots wound their way around with volunteers ladling out generous portions of stew in plastic bowls for the pilgrims to buy.

The hajj, which began over the weekend, climaxed on Sunday with prayers on Mount Arafat, a hill outside of Mecca where the Prophet Muhammad delivered his last sermon in 632.

In the last hajj tragedy, in 1998, a stampede at the stoning the devil ritual killed 180 people. A 1997 fire in Mina, where the stoning takes place, tore through the tent city, trapping and killing more than 340 pilgrims and injuring 1,500. In 1994, a stampede killed 270 pilgrims. The most deadly hajj-related tragedy was a 1990 stampede in which 1,426 pilgrims were killed.

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