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Saturday, 26 September 2015

Saudi authorities under fire as death-marred hajj draws to a close

As the hajj religious pilgrimage entered its final day Saturday, officials in Saudi Arabia continued to grapple with the aftermath of a collision of pedestrian crowds that killed at least 769 people from various nationalities.

Iran has strongly criticised arch-rival Saudi Arabia over the disaster, blaming the Saudi government for "incompetence" and "mismanagement" of the annual hajj - which draws about 2 million pilgrims per year from more than 180 countries.

According to an Iranian state TV report, 134 Iranian pilgrims died and 85 were injured in Thursday's incident, while 354 remain missing. Among the missing are Ghazanfar Roknabadi, a former ambassador to Lebanon, as well as two Iranian state TV reporters and a prominent political analyst.

Iran's state prosecutor Ebrahim Raisi said Saturday he would pursue legal action against Saudi Arabia's rulers in international courts over the deadly stampede, describing the disaster as "a crime" subject to prosecution.

  • Raisi said Saudi authorities blocked a road used by hajj pilgrims to allow a royal convoy to pass through, causing the deadly convergence of two waves of pilgrims going in opposite directions.
  • The accusation came a day after Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei announced three days of national mourning, saying "the government of Saudi Arabia must accept the huge responsibility for this catastrophe".
Several African countries confirmed deaths in the stampede, as did India, Indonesia, Pakistan and the Netherlands. Moroccan media gave 87 nationals killed.

Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari urged the Saudi authorities "to ensure a comprehensive and thorough exercise that will identify any flaws in hajj organisation".

Pilgrims 'nor organised or patient'

Pilgrims on Saturday steadily streamed into Mina's Jamarat, a multi-story complex built by the kingdom with crowd-monitoring technology and wide ramps for large crowds to perform the final rites of the hajj. Muslims believe the devil tried to talk the Prophet Ibrahim, or Abraham as he is known in the Bible, out of submitting to God's will in Mina. In one of the final steps of the hajj, pilgrims throw stones at three large pillars here in a symbolic casting away of evil.

Saudi security forces were on hand to spray pilgrims with water to help to keep them cool as temperatures reached 100 degrees Farenheit (38 degrees Celsius). Large fans also sprayed water mist to keep the hundreds of thousands of pilgrims performing their hajj rites from over-heating.............http://www.france24.com/en/20150926-saudi-authorities-under-fire-stampede-hajj-iran-pilgrimage

  26/9/15
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