Saturday, September 26, 2015

​Nigeria, Iran pressure Saudi Arabia to take responsibility for Hajj deaths

Pressure has mounted on Saudi authorities to take responsibility for Thursday’s death of over 700 pilgrims in the country in a disaster many believe could have been avoided.

At least 717 people died during a stampede as nearly 3 million Muslims from around the world rounded off this year’s hajj with an important ceremony in Mina, about four kilometres from Mecca.

The tragedy came about two weeks after a crane collapse killed over 100 pilgrims, among them six Nigerians.

Preliminary details say three Nigerians died in the latest disaster, alongside three Kenyans and eight Egyptians.

Iran has 131 deaths, India: 14, Pakistan: 6, Turkey: 4, Indonesia: 3, Netherlands: 1. Over 800 people were injured.

Despite the large number of fatalities, Saudi authorities blamed pilgrims of “African nationalities” for the disaster.

Comments by Saudi health minister, Khaled al-Falih, that the incident were mostly caused by Africans who failed to follow instructions angered several affected countries.

The leader of Nigeria’s delegation to hajj, and the Emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi II, urged the Saudi government to refrain from pointing accusing fingers at pilgrims for the deaths.

Emir Sanusi said the incident should not have happened in the first place.

“It happened on the designated ways for incoming and outgoing pilgrims to the site, [where they were] crossing each other,” he told the BBC.

“We are therefore urging the Saudi authorities not to apportion blame to the pilgrims for not obeying instructions.”

Iran’s Security Council, which country has the highest number of casualties so far, accused the Saudi government of incompetence.

The council demanded that the Saudi government takes responsibility for the death of 717 people as well as the treatment of over 860 people in the stampede.

“The unavoidable fact is that the Saudi government has been incompetent in this regard and with regard to the management of the Hajj pilgrimage, and Riyadh must accept responsibility for this,” a spokesperson for the council, Keyvan Khosravi, was reported to have said.

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