Saudi Arabia accused of neglect over deadly hajj disaster

Said Owhadi, the director of the organization said ten teams have been tasked with examining the conditions of the situation and investigating the casualties and the missing.

More than 2 million Muslims from around the world are in Saudi Arabia for the Hajj, a pilgrimage that all Muslims who have the financial and physical ability make at some point in their lives.

It was the second major accident this year for pilgrims, after a construction crane collapsed on September 11 at Mecca’s Grand Mosque, Islam’s holiest site, killing 109 people, including many foreigners.

Iranian state television said the demonstrators in Tehran were showing their anger at “Saudi incapability and incompetence to run the Hajj”.

“The death of more than 1,000 people is not a small issue”, he said, citing claims by Iranian officials that the death toll is higher than that Saudi Arabia has admitted to. Reports said at least 30 people were killed from Mali, 14 each from Egypt and India, five from Senegal, four from Turkey, and three each from Indonesia and Kenya.

Many bodies from the over 700 people killed were yet to be identified.

Iranian state TV says Ghazanfar Roknabadi, a former ambassador to Lebanon, as well as two Iranian state TV reporters and a prominent political analyst are among those still missing.

The war, in which cities and villages are being bombed, is perceived by Middle East observers as one that is Saudi Arabia vs. Iran, Sunni vs. Shiite.

Hajj pilgrim Ethar El-Katatney, a journalist and blogger, said the pressure to finish in time may have contributed to the stampede.

He also slammed Saudi authorities as “arrogant, ambitious and inexperienced” rulers who have neglected the duty to handle the Hajj pilgrimage.

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani began an address to the United Nations General Assembly on Saturday by expressing “regret over the heart-rending incident“, emphasizing the “need for swift attention” to an investigation into “this incident and other similar incidents in this year’s hajj“.

But as the death toll stood at 717 – a number that Saudi officials said could rise – the kingdom’s leadership appeared to rally around explanations that sought to deflect full responsibility. However he said Iran would not hesitate to engage in dialogue with Saudi Arabia “if we see a framework” for such discussions.

As Muslim pilgrims somberly resumed the final rites of Haj yesterday, Saudi Arabia’s King Salman has ordered a safety review and a “revision” of the Haj organisation.

By I Free Press