At least 155 Iranian pilgrims died in a crush of pilgrims on Thursday near Mecca and 300 other Iranians remain unaccounted for, including former ambassador to Lebanon Ghazanfar Roknabadi, Iranian state media has said.
Although a comprehensive investigation is yet to be conducted to determine the cause of the incident, officials have blamed pilgrims of not following directions, leading to the stampede. The kingdom presents itself as the guardian of orthodox Islam and custodian of its holiest places in Mecca and Medina.
“The Muslim world has many questions in this regard and Saudi rulers, instead of shunning [their responsibility] must accept their responsibility in this grave incident by apologizing to the Muslim Ummah and bereft families”, Khamenei said while addressing a group of clerics. An official toll gave the death toll as more than 400, including 275 Iranians.
Tariq Fazal Chaudhry, an MP from Pakistan’s governing PML-N political party who is leading his country’s response to the disaster, said Saudi officials gave diplomats “1,100 photos” of the dead. Khamenei ordered the bodies of the Iranian victims to be buried in martyrs’ cemeteries.
It is also not the first time Iranian pilgrims have been killed in Saudi Arabia. He said that Iran’s statements regarding the tragedy were based on anti-Arab sentiments, Al Arabiya reported. Protesters chanted “I’ll kill those who killed my brothers!” and demanded the embassy be shut down.
The worst Hajj pilgrimage disaster in a quarter century is adding to the tension between Saudi Arabia and regional rival Iran, already on opposing ends in a few of the Middle East’s deadliest conflicts in Syria and Yemen.
The report said 200 army forces and 150 police officers escorted the prince.
However, they said security had improved and the crowd was smaller.
Zarif also called on Saudis to give Iranian responders access to all hospitals where the injured are being kept. The deaths at Mina have heightened the acrimony between the two countries.
Saudi Arabia deployed large numbers of special forces on Saturday as pilgrims performed the final rituals of the Hajj.