Saudi Arabia says toll in stampede could rise, orders probe

Riyadh, Sep 24 (IANS) Saudi Arabia on Thursday ordered an investigation into the stampede in Mina that left over 700 Haj pilgrims dead and more than 800 injured, even as the authorities said the toll was expected to rise.

According to Xinhua, the Saudi interior ministry said the incident was dealt with plans, but the procedures to deal with the performing of the ritual will be reviewed to overcome such mishaps in the coming years.

The accident took place during a ritual of throwing pebbles at one of the three walls representing Satan, the symbolic “stoning of the devil”.

The ministry said the incident was initially triggered by pilgrims moving in opposite directions.

“We will be investigating the incident as it happened in a narrow road that isn’t usually used by pilgrims, as it is closed to the camping areas in Mina,” a ministry spokesperson said, adding that the high temperature may also be an additional reason.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Naif bin Abdulaziz has ordered a thorough investigation and promised that the actual reasons will be announced shortly.

Meanwhile, Iran’s foreign ministry criticised the Saudi authorities for what it called their failure to prevent the stampede in Mina, Iran’s Tasnim news agency reported.

“Saudi Arabian officials are to blame for the incident” and for their “tactlessness” in providing security for the pilgrims, Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister for Arab and African Affairs Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said.

Iran’s foreign ministry on Thursday summoned Saudi Arabia’s charge d’affaires and protested against “the lack of prudence” leading to the deadly accident.

According to Iran’s state IRIB TV, at least 89 Iranian pilgrims were killed and 60 were injured in the incident.

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