Iran nearly doubles its death toll from hajj stampede
search

Iran nearly doubles its death toll from hajj stampede

Tehran says 464 nationals died in crush during pilgrimage, including former ambassador

An Iranian woman cries as she hugs her husband at the Imam Khomeini international airport in Tehran following her return from the hajj pilgrimage in Saudi's holy Muslim city of Mecca, September 29, 2015. (AFP/ATTA KENARE)
An Iranian woman cries as she hugs her husband at the Imam Khomeini international airport in Tehran following her return from the hajj pilgrimage in Saudi's holy Muslim city of Mecca, September 29, 2015. (AFP/ATTA KENARE)

TEHRAN — Iran on Thursday nearly doubled its death toll from last week’s hajj stampede, saying there was no hope of finding pilgrims missing after the tragedy.

“Seven days after this tragic accident … the status of all (pilgrims) injured has been completely cleared and reported,” Iran’s hajj organisation said in a statement carried by state television.

It said 464 Iranian pilgrims were thought to have died in the stampede near Mecca last Thursday.

Included in the new death toll was senior Iranian diplomat and former ambassador to Lebanon Ghazanfar Roknabadi, 49, who was attending the annual Muslim gathering and was confirmed killed, according to Iranian media.

Earlier, Saudi and Iranian health ministers agreed to repatriate the Iranian pilgrims killed in the crush, Saudi state media said, after Tehran threatened a “fierce” response over delays.

Tehran had accused Saudi of hindering its efforts to bring home the bodies of at least 239 Iranians who died in the tragedy near the Muslim holy city of Mecca.

Another 241 people, are among the Iranians still listed as missing six days after the deadly stampede, in which at least 769 pilgrims died.

Iranian state-run media has put the total death toll in the disaster as high as 4,000 but has not offered corroborating evidence for the higher number.

“The two parties have agreed on the repatriation of the bodies of identified dead Iranians as soon as possible,” Saudi’s SPA state news agency reported early Thursday following talks between the rivals in Jeddah.

Saudi emergency personnel stand near bodies of Hajj pilgrims at the site where at least 717 were killed and hundreds wounded in a stampede in Mina, near the city of Mecca, at the annual hajj in Saudi Arabia on September 24, 2015. (STR/AFP)
Saudi emergency personnel stand near bodies of Hajj pilgrims at the site where at least 717 were killed and hundreds wounded in a stampede in Mina, near the city of Mecca, at the annual hajj in Saudi Arabia on September 24, 2015. (STR/AFP)

The two sides will also “maintain contacts to identify the rest and look after the wounded,” SPA added under the agreement struck between Saudi health minister Khaled al-Falih and his Iranian counterpart Hassan Hashemi.

It said the Saudi minister “stressed the kingdom’s government’s wish to cooperate with the Islamic Republic of Iran”.

Tehran claimed last week that Saudi authorities have failed to issue visas for Iranian officials who sought to travel to the kingdom to facilitate the repatriation of the dead and the injured.

The two regional rivals were already at odds over Iran’s support for Shiite Huthi rebels in Yemen, which lies on Saudi Arabia’s southern flank. That prompted Riyadh to form a coalition of Arab nations to combat the Huthis.

“Saudi officials are failing to do their duties,” Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in a speech to graduating navy officers, following delays in the return of the hajj dead, accusing some of the officials of “slyness”.

“They should know that the slightest disrespect towards tens of thousands of Iranian pilgrims in Mecca and Medina and not fulfilling their obligation to transfer holy bodies will have Iran’s tough and fierce reaction.”

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report

read more:
less
comments
more