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Saudi worried about Hajj crush disclosures: Iran

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Head of Iran’s Hajj and Pilgrimage Organization Saeed Ohadi

An Iranian official says Saudi officials are afraid of undisclosed dimensions of a deadly stampede during the Hajj pilgrimage last year coming to light. 

Saudi Arabia said on Tuesday it was still reviewing the deaths of thousands of people nine months after the deadly crush during Hajj in Mina, near the holy city of Mecca.

“More than nine months since the Mina disaster, the fate of those affected from different countries remains unclear,” head of Iran’s Hajj and Pilgrimage Organization Saeed Ohadi said on Saturday.

Last month, Iran canceled its participation in this year's holy pilgrimage to Mecca after Saudi authorities refused to guarantee the safety of pilgrims and created a raft of “obstacles” instead. 

“One of the reasons for the Saudis’ refusal to accept Iranian pilgrims was the fear which they had about the disclosure of the number of Mina martyrs,” Ohadi said. 

Saudi Arabia claims nearly 770 people were killed in the incident, but officials at Iran’s Hajj and Pilgrimage Organization say about 4,700 people, including over 460 Iranian pilgrims, lost their lives in Mina.

They were killed on September 24, 2015 after two large masses of pilgrims converged at a crossroads during the symbolic stoning of Satan, making it the deadliest crush in the history of the pilgrimage. 

A Muslim pilgrim walks through the site where dead bodies are gathered at the site of a crush in Mina, near Mecca, Saudi Arabia, September 24, 2015.©AP

Ohadi said Iran was the only country that managed to determine the fate of its nationals either dead or missing, thanks to the "firm remarks" of Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei after the disaster. 

Following the crush, the Leader called on Riyadh to accept responsibility in the tragedy, help repatriate the bodies of the dead as quickly as possible and provide treatment to the injured. 

Ohadi said Riyadh had adopted a “wrong approach” both prior to the incident and after it. 

“The Islamic Republic of Iran’s actions this year will make Saudi Arabia step back and take responsibility toward ensuring the safety of our pilgrims (in the future),” he added. 

Iranian officials have said Saudi Arabia is using Hajj for “political” motivations.

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