Art And Culture

131 Iranians Among 1500 Killed in Mecca Panic

131 Iranians Among 1500  Killed in Mecca Panic131 Iranians Among 1500  Killed in Mecca Panic

The Hajj season this year concluded tragically with at least 1500 pilgrims killed and over 2,000 injured in a stampede in Mina, 5 km from the holy city of Mecca.

The number of Iranian casualties in Thursday’s stampede has reached 212, with 131 pilgrims confirmed dead and 81 injured, Fars News Agency reported.

The stampede occurred on the first day of Eid al-Adha, (Feast of the Sacrifice) during the ritual known as ‘Stoning the Devil’. Crowds of pilgrims throw stones at three pillars in a re-enactment of Prophet Abraham ‘Stoning the Devil’ and rejecting his temptations, according to Islamic traditions.

Rescue operations are still underway and Saudi officials have deployed 4,000 workers, along with 220 ambulances and other vehicles, to Mina in response to the disaster.

However, head of Iran Hajj and Pilgrimage Organization Saeed Ohadi said Saudi hospitals are overwhelmed with the injured and despite finding it difficult to treat them are not accepting Iranian doctors’ offer to help.

As for the reason of the disaster, Saudi officials said pilgrims were walking toward the largest of the pillars when there was a sudden surge in the crowd, causing a large number of people to fall, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

But the Lebanese newspaper Addiyar revealed that the convoy of Saudi Arabia’s deputy crown prince and defense minister Mohammad bin Salman Al Saud had caused the stampede.

“He was escorted by over 350 security forces, including 200 army men and 150 policemen, sped up the road to go through the pilgrims that were moving towards the site of the ritual, causing panic among millions of pilgrims who were on the move from the opposite direction and caused the stampede,” the newspaper said.

No other source has confirmed the report, but observers said this could explain why two of the roads to the site had been closed.

Eye witnesses earlier said the Saudi police and security forces had closed two of the four roads to the stone column that were to be used by millions of pilgrims.

 Pile Up

They also said even after the incident the Saudi security and military forces closed all paths leading to the scene resulting in the bodies of pilgrims piling up on each other.

The International Red Cross has offered to assist Saudi Arabia to rescue the wounded and send 2000 volunteers but the authorities refused on two grounds: first, it is forbidden for non-Muslims to enter Mecca and second, the Cross emblem is not acceptable to Saudi Arabia.

The stampede is the third incident in this year’s hajj rituals. In the first, a crane crash over the Grand Mosque of Mecca killed over 100 and injured hundreds more two weeks ago. A week later, a fire at a Mecca hotel claimed the lives of several other pilgrims. There was also a rockslide on some apartments in Mecca.