Saudi king rejects Iran criticism over hajj

Saudi king rejects Iran criticism over hajj
3 min read
13 October, 2015
Saudi Arabia's King Salman said Monday that "irresponsible comments" and criticism of the kingdom's management of the hajj will not affect his country's oversight of the annual Islamic pilgrimage.
Iran suffered the loss of 464 pilgrims in the incident [Getty]
King Salman on Monday rejected any suggestions Saudi Arabia should give up its role as the organiser of the hajj pilgrimage following last month's deadly stampede in Mina that killed at least 1,608 people.

The latest death toll was collated by foreign officials and is much higher than the 769 the kingdom admitted to two days after the incident, making it the deadliest incident in the pilgrimage's history.

"The irresponsible statements aiming for political exploitation of the incident... shall not affect the role of Saudi Arabia, its duty and responsibilities in serving the guests of God," said the Saudi monarch.

Saudi Arabia had deployed "all its capabilities and efforts… to provide the guests of God with comfort, security and safety," Salman said in a statement carried by SPA state news agency.
The breakdown of the dead by nationality, according to foreign governments: 

- Iran: 464 dead
- Egypt: 177 dead
- Nigeria: 145 dead
- Indonesia: 120 dead
- India: 101 dead
- Pakistan: 87 dead
- Bangladesh: 79
- Mali: 60 dead
- Senegal: 54 dead
- Chad: 52 dead
- Benin: 34 dead
- Morocco: 33 dead
- Sudan: 30 dead
- Algeria: 28 dead
- Niger: 28 dead
- Burkina Faso: 22 dead
- Cameroon: 20 dead
- Ivory Coast: 14 dead
- Ethiopia: 13 dead
- Libya: 10 dead
- Somalia: 8 dead
- Kenya: 6 dead
- Ghana: 5 dead
- Mauritius: 5 dead
- Tanzania: 4 dead
- Tunisia: 4 dead
- Burundi: 1 dead
- Iraq: 1 dead
- Jordan: 1 dead
- Netherlands: 1 dead
- Oman: 1 dead

Pointed criticism

The kingdom's organisation of the hajj and its response to the disaster provoked foreign criticism, mainly from its arch-rival Iran.

An Iranian top cleric had called for the hajj to be managed by other Islamic states after at least 464 Iranians were among the possibly more than 1,608 pilgrims killed in the stampede, according to figures given by foreign officials.

"Saudi Arabia is incapable of organising the pilgrimage," said Ayatollah Mohammad Emami Kashani.

Saudi Arabia has yet to provide an updated death toll after saying two days after the stampede that 769 pilgrims had died. Saudi authorities have also not provided a breakdown by nationality.

Days before the hajj, a construction crane collapsed at the Grand Mosque, Islam's holiest site, killing 109 people, including many foreigners.

Salman ordered last month "a revision" of how the hajj is organised.

Hundreds of pilgrims “missing”

Saudi Arabia has yet to provide an updated death toll, after saying two days after the stampede that 769 Muslim pilgrims had died. Saudi authorities have also not provided a breakdown by nationality.

Hundreds of pilgrims have also not been accounted for following the September 24 stampede at the hajj, one of the largest annual gatherings in the world.

But many foreign governments have provided numbers on pilgrims killed from their countries and an AFP tally shows the death toll has overtaken the 1,426 pilgrims who died in the hajj's worst previous incident - a tunnel stampede in July 1990.