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Saudi soldiers watched pilgrims die: Survivor

A Muslim pilgrim mourns near a body following a crush at Mina, outside the Muslim holy city of Mecca September 24, 2015. (Reuters Photo)

As criticism against Riyadh continues to mount over a deadly crush near the holy city of Mecca, a survivor says a large number of Saudi Arabian soldiers looked on as hundreds died, Press TV reports.

An Iranian survivor of the September 24 incident in Mina, whose name was not revealed, said only a handful of Saudi soldiers assisted those being trampled in the crush.

“When I returned to the disaster point to help, Saudi soldiers prevented me from entering the area. This, as only a handful of Saudi soldiers were helping the victims, while a large number of them were standing by idly and looking,” the man told Press TV.

The crush occurred as a large crowd of pilgrims were on their way to participate in the symbolic stoning of Satan in Jamarat. Reports indicate that Saudi authorities had blocked a road to Jamarat, forcing another column of pilgrims who had completed the ritual to return on the same route.

Saudi emergency personnel move away the body of a victim killed in the crush in Mina, near the holy city of Mecca, at the annual hajj in Saudi Arabia, September 24, 2015. (Photo by AFP)


A number of other survivors have also shared similar accounts, saying that mismanagement by the Saudi authorities and a poor rescue response complicated the situation.

Some accused Saudi soldiers of selectively rescuing suffocating pilgrims based on their nationalities.

According to accounts, some died after being trapped for up to four to five hours under bodies.

Some two million people were in Mecca for the annual pilgrimage at the time of the crush.

According to Saudi Arabia’s Health Ministry, the death toll from the incident stands at about 770.

The head of Iran’s Hajj and Pilgrimage Organization, Saeed Ohadi, however, says the disaster has killed around 2,000 pilgrims, including some 170 Iranians. Tens of Iranians have also been wounded, while about 300 Iranian nationals are still missing.

The incident occurred just days after a crane collapse into the Grand Mosque, which killed more than 100 people.

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