'Rule-breaking Iran pilgrims' caused crush

Rule-breaking Iran pilgrims caused crush
Pilgrims walk on a bridge as they head to cast stones at pillars symbolising Satan during the Haj in Mina.

Mina - The death toll in the crush at the annual Haj pilgrimage outside the holy city of Makkah rose to 769.

By Staff Report

Published: Sun 27 Sep 2015, 12:00 AM

Last updated: Sun 27 Sep 2015, 6:42 PM

The Mina stampede that has left hundreds of people dead and injured was caused by a group of around 300 Iranian pilgrims who failed to follow instructions from Haj authorities, the London-based Al Sharq Al Awsat Arabic daily quoted an official from Iran's Haj mission as saying.
The death toll in the crush at the annual Haj pilgrimage outside the holy city of Makkah rose to 769, Saudi Arabia said on Saturday, as Iran said Saudi officials should be tried in an international court for what it called a crime.
The worst disaster to befall the pilgrimage in a quarter of a century occurred on Thursday as two large groups of pilgrims arrived together at a crossroads in Mina, a few kilometres outside the holy city.
The Iranian official, who requested anonymity, said the incident happened when a group of 300 Iranian pilgrims began moving from Muzdalefa on Thursday morning to perform the 'stoning the devil' ritual. The group did not stay in the camps allocated to it to place their luggage and wait for the green light to proceed. They then headed in the reverse direction of street 204.
As per Haj guidelines, all pilgrims, upon their arrival in Mina, are required to rest in their tents to restore strength following their tiring foot trip from Muzdalefa. The pilgrims then are divided into groups to proceed for the stone-throwing ritual. This is also applicable to the Iranian Haj mission, Al Sharq Al Awsat quoted a source saying.
The paper said the Iranian pilgrims also failed to follow orders requiring them to wait for clearance after 'stoning the devil' to leave Jamarat. Instead, the group went back to their mission's headquarters as other groups were on their way to the site as scheduled, according to the official.
"The group stopped for a while, causing the coming pilgrims to take a route no more than 20 metres wide," he said, adding that such behaviour often leads to tragic consequences in crowded areas.
The Iranian pilgrims were scheduled to leave Jamarat hours after the accident took place, the official said.
Meanwhile, a Saudi security source said authorities may check security cameras installed in the tunnel leading to Jamarat to verify when the Iranian group left the site.
Asharq Al Awsat said majority of eyewitnesses it spoke to agreed that the crush occurred after pilgrims "failed to follow orders from security".
Yahia Hamida, a 26-year-old pilgrim from Jordan, told the paper that "an unusual mass of pilgrims congregated on Street 204 [that leads to Jamarat] after some entered the wrong lane."
"Movement on Street 204 was normal until a large number of pilgrims came in the opposite direction, which stopped movement for about an hour and a half before the elderly began to collapse," another pilgrim said.
The Saudi Interior Ministry has said investigations into the causes of the tragic stampede were under way and that "high temperature and tiredness" contributed to the accident.
Meanwhile, Iran's Foreign Ministry summoned the Saudi charge d'affaires for a third time in three days to protest against Riyadh's handling of the disaster.
"Under international law, this incident is absolutely subject to prosecution," Iran's state prosecutor Ebrahim Raisi told state TV.

Image courtesy: Saudi Gazette

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