At least 717 people were killed in a stampede at the hajj in Saudi Arabia in what is one of most gruesome incidents at the annual Muslim pilgrimage. The incident comes two weeks after a crane collapsed in Mecca, killing 100 people.
According to Yahoo News, 805 people have been reported injured. The stampede occurred in Mina during the devil ritual, as reported by the Saudi civil defense service. For not being able to manage the crowd of people fulfilling their vows at the pilgrimage, the Saudi government is being held culpable for the incident. On the other hand, a Saudi minister said the pilgrims were to be blamed for the tragedy, who were not complying with the hajj rules. “Many pilgrims move without respecting the timetables” set for the hajj, Health Minister Khaled al-Falih said, as reported by 9news.com.au. “If the pilgrims had followed instructions, this type of accident could have been avoided.”
An investigation is being conducted into the matter. Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, who chairs the Saudi haj committee, said an investigation will be held, the findings of which will be sent to King Salman, “who will take appropriate measures.”
A revision in the planning for future hajj pilgrimages will also be made. Addressing army and security personnel, King Salman said, “This painful accident…does not take away from your great work to serve the pilgrims to perform their rituals with ease, comfort and calm.”
Iran’s spiritual leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and other Iranian officials also held Saudi officials responsible for the tragedy. “The Saudi government is obliged to accept its heavy responsibility in this bitter incident and meet its obligations in compliance with the rule of righteousness and fairness,” Khamenei said.
He further said that “mismanagement and improper measures” were reasons for the incident. Iraqi Vice President Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite former prime minister, said that a pan-Islamic organization should be in charge for the management of the Hajj. A statement issued by Maliki’s office said, “[Saudi officials] are arrogant and unqualified to oversee such great Islamic events.”
This year, an estimated 2 million people have undertaken the pilgrimage. Several other similar incidents have also occurred in the past few decades. According to the Wall Street Journal, in 2006 a stampede near Jamarat led the deaths of more than 346 people. At least 1,426 were killed in a stampede in a pedestrian tunnel leading from Mecca to Mina in 1990.
“We consider the pilgrims’ entrance to Jamarat one of the difficult tasks,” Maj. Gen. Mansour al-Turki, spokesman for the interior ministry, said. “The progression of events could happen in a way that cannot be controlled.”
Leaders from all over the world sent their condolences. Washington said the tragedy was “heartbreaking.” U.S. National Security Council spokesman, Ned Price, said, “We join you in mourning the tragic loss of these faithful pilgrims. British Prime Minister, David Cameron, wrote in a tweet, “My thoughts and prayers are with the families of those killed at the hajj pilgrimage.”
In Yemen, a suicide bomber struck a mosque, killing at least 25 people. The responsibility of the attack was claimed by the Islamic State group.
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