An Iranian cleric says the main culprits of the September 24 tragedy in Mina, Saudi Arabia, must face justice for the human crush that killed hundreds of pilgrims during the Hajj rituals.
“The management of Hajj should undoubtedly change,” said Ayatollah Mohammad Ali Movahedi Kermani in an address to worshippers at weekly Friday Prayers in the Iranian capital, Tehran.
He added that the Mina tragedy has left a mark of disgrace on the Saudi regime which cannot be removed easily.
The Iranian cleric said the Saudi police are certainly responsible for the incident.
“Muslim countries must investigate [the incident] and a fact-finding mission must be set up and the reason behind the closure of the routes [leading to Mina] should be determined,” the Iranian cleric said.
He added that many pilgrims died due to lack of water in the scorching heat.
Ayatollah Movahedi Kermani said the tragedy showed Saudi authorities’ lack of competence and their inability to manage the rituals.
The Iranian cleric also called on the Saudi officials to consult with Muslim countries regarding the management of the pilgrimage.
The crush took place after two large masses of pilgrims converged in Mina, near the holy city of Mecca.
Saudi Arabia claims nearly 770 people were killed in the crush, but officials with Iran’s Hajj and Pilgrimage Organization say about 4,700 people, including at least 464 Iranians, lost their lives in the tragedy. The first flight carrying the bodies of 104 Iranian pilgrims killed in the crush is expected to land in Tehran in the early hours of Saturday morning.
Numerous sources and witnesses have questioned the Saudi death toll. Many argue that the fatalities are much higher given the figures that over a dozen countries have so far announced. This as more countries have raised the tally of their dead.
Indonesia says that 91 of its pilgrims died in the tragedy and 38 of its citizens are still missing. Pakistan says 58 of its pilgrims died in the crush. Egypt, meanwhile, has said that 124 of its nationals were killed.
This year’s pilgrimage saw a host of incidents, with 109 people killed in the collapse of a giant crane in the Grand Mosque in Mecca on September 11, days before the Hajj ritual started. Other incidents were also reported including a fire in the tents of Egyptian pilgrims in Mina, with no official reports of casualties. Two hotel fires also were reported earlier.