Death toll rises: Saudi Arabia Stampede

Published: September 27, 2015

Death toll rises: Saudi Arabia Stampede, Iran’s supreme leader has called on Saudi Arabia to apologise for Thursday’s deadly stampede during the annual Hajj pilgrimage in Mecca.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s remarks came after a speech by President Hassan Rouhani at the UN in which he called for an investigation.

Saudi Arabia has accused Iran of playing politics with a tragedy.

At least 769 people died in the crush, more than 140 of them from Iran.

It was the deadliest incident to hit the Hajj in 25 years.

The crush occurred on Thursday morning as two large groups of pilgrims converged at right angles as they took part in the Hajj’s last major rite – stone-throwing at pillars called Jamarat, where Satan is believed to have tempted the Prophet Abraham.

As pilgrims completed the final rituals of this year’s Hajj in the shadow of Thursday’s tragic events, the row between the Saudis and Iran over who was responsible only grew in virulence.

Iran lost at least 140 of its citizens in the disaster. But its outrage has political motivations, too, as its battle with Saudi Arabia for regional dominance sharpens week by week. The rivalry between Shia Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia also has a religious dimension.

Despite all the billions the Saudis have spent on the infrastructure of the Hajj, there is a growing chorus of criticism which extends beyond Iran.

It is claimed that their organisation of the pilgrimage may not have paid enough attention to the basic human level of managing the mass influx of pilgrims so that all are treated equally, as the simple white clothing they assume on entering Mecca is meant to symbolise.

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