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Riyadh must not evade responsibility for Hajj tragedy: Saudi cleric

Saudi cleric, Salman bin Fahd bin Abdullah al-Ouda

A Saudi cleric says the Riyadh regime should be held accountable for the crush that killed hundreds of Hajj pilgrims at Mina, adding that Saudi rulers cannot evade their responsibility by labeling the tragedy as an act of God.

In a video that circulated on social networking sites, Salman bin Fahd bin Abdullah al-Ouda, rejected the views that the repeated incidents during the Hajj pilgrimage could be justified simply by describing them as an act of God, which is inevitable.

The cleric further emphasized that Islam attaches great significance to protecting people’s lives and providing security during religious rituals, calling on Muslim countries to make efforts to that effect.

Ouda also called on media outlets to cover the incident with full transparency.

The remarks by the Saudi sheikh comes as Saudi Arabia’s top religious leader Abdul-Aziz ibn Abdullah ash-Sheikh attempted to take the responsibility for the Mina stampede off the Riyadh regime’s shoulders, claiming that the incident was beyond human control.

Sheikh made the remarks in a Saturday meeting with Saudi Interior Minister Mohammed bin Nayef, whom he said was not to blame for the deaths of hundreds of pilgrims outside the holy city of Mecca earlier this week.

Saudi Arabia’s top religious leader, Sheikh Abdul Aziz Al Sheikh (2L), meets with Saudi Interior Minister Mohammed bin Nayef (2R) in the holy city of Mecca on September 26, 2015. (SPA photo)

He added that pilgrims must stick to “the rules and regulations taken by the security personnel... In doing so, they protect their lives, their security and facilitate their performing of the rituals.”

On September 24, a fatal human took place at Mina, outside the holy city of Mecca, as a large crowd of pilgrims were on their way to participate in the symbolic stoning of Satan, a Hajj ritual.

Saudi Arabia’s Health Ministry has put the death toll from the incident at nearly 770. However, Iran’s Hajj and Pilgrimage Organization says the disaster has killed around 2,000 pilgrims.

In this picture taken on September 24, 2014, bodies of people, who were crushed in Mina, Saudi Arabia, during the annual Hajj pilgrimage, are seen among belongings and empty water bottles. ©AP

The Mina tragedy has cast doubt on the Saudi regime’s ability to manage the large influx of pilgrims into the kingdom during the Hajj pilgrimage season every year.

Riyadh claims the disorderly behavior of the pilgrims caused the disaster.

However, pilgrims blame the deadly crush on police, who reportedly had closed two roads on the day the incident happened. They also point the finger at Saudi authorities who failed to adopt proper security measures in handling the flow of hundreds of thousands of pilgrims in high temperatures.

This year’s pilgrimage saw a host of incidents, with 109 people killed in the collapse of a giant crane in the Grand Mosque days before the ritual started. On Friday, Egyptian pilgrims stationed in Mina reported a fire in their tents, although no official casualties were reported.

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