Hajj stampede; Blame on Prince Salman convoy, Death toll of Indians rises to 18

Hajj

New Delhi: (Maeeshat News) The latest update from India’s Ministry of External Affairs said the death toll of Indian Haj pilgrims in the Thursday incident has risen to 18. More than 700 Haj pilgrims were crushed to death during a deadly stampede in Mina on 24th Sep.

“Our officials on the ground in Makkah have been working continuously to ascertain information and reach out to family members of missing pilgrims. According to latest information, 18 Indians have died in the tragedy. Our mission is working with Saudi authorities and family members to confirm the identities of the deceased and expedite formalities for release of the mortal remains,” tweeted ministry’s spokesperson Vikas Swarup around 8 AM today (Saturday).

According to the Civil Defence of Saudi Arabia, 717 Haj pilgrims were killed during the stampede and 850 others were injured.

India President, Vice President, PM condole deaths at Haj stampede

President Pranab Mukherjee, Vice President Mohammad Hamid Ansari, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other top leaders of the country on Thursday condoled the deaths in a horrific Haj stampede in Saudi Arabia.

“Deeply saddened by tragic incident at Mina on Thursday, during which a large number of Haj pilgrims lost their lives,” the president tweeted.

Hamid Ansari, in a message to Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Nayef, said: “We deeply mourn this tragedy and extend our heartfelt condolences to you and to the people of the Saudi Arabia. We express our solemn thoughts and pray in this hour of grief for the departed souls.”

PM Modi, in his message from the US, said: “Distressing news from Mecca. Pained at loss of lives due to the stampede. Condolences to families of the deceased and prayers with the injured.”

 UN chief deeply saddened over Haj deaths

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that he was deeply saddened to learn of the death of more than 700 Haj pilgrims as a result of a stampede near Mina in Saudi Arabia.

“This tragic incident is all the more distressing as it took place on the first day of the Holy Eid Al-Adha marking the end of the annual Haj season,” Xinhua reported quoting a statement issued here by Ban’s spokesman on Thursday.

The secretary-general also extended his sincere condolences to the families of the victims and expresses his sympathies to all the governments concerned, the statement added.

In another media report it has said that the presence of the convoy of the son of the Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud in central Mina prompted the stampede that killed hundreds of pilgrims on the outskirts of the holy city of Mecca, a report says.

The Arabic-language daily al-Diyar said in a report on Thursday that the convoy of Prince Mohammad bin Salman Al Saud played a central role in the deadly crush on the third day of the annual Hajj pilgrimage earlier in the day.

The report said that Salman, who had sought to attend the huge gathering of pilgrims in Mina, a large valley about five kilometers (three miles) from Mecca, arrived at the site early on Thursday accompanied by a huge entourage.

The report said 200 army forces and 150 police officers escorted the prince.

The report said the presence of the prince in the middle of the population prompted a change in the direction of the movement of the pilgrims and a stampede.

The Lebanese daily further said that Salman and his entourage swiftly abandoned the scene, adding that the Saudi authorities seek to hush up the entire story and impose a media blackout on Salman’s presence in the area.

However, officials in Saudi Arabia have denied the report, calling it “incorrect.” The Saudi health minister has blamed the pilgrims for the tragedy. “If the pilgrims had followed instructions, this type of accident could have been avoided,” Khaled al-Falih said.

According to Iran’s Hajj and Pilgrimage Organization more than 1,300 people, including 125 Iranians, were killed in the crush. This as Saudi officials put the death toll at 717 and the number of injured at 863.

Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei has declared three days of national mourning following the incident while urging the Saudi government to “shoulder its heavy responsibility” in the stampede and “meet its obligations in compliance with the rule of righteousness and fairness.”

Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister for Arab and African Affairs Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said on Thursday that Saudi Arabia should be held accountable over the death of the pilgrims. He said that the fatal crush started after Saudi security forces blocked two streets while the pilgrims were walking towards the final ritual of the Hajj.

“We can by no means remain indifferent towards Saudi Arabia’s irresponsible behavior,” said Amir-Abdollahian, adding, “The tactlessness on the part of relevant Saudi authorities to provide security for the pilgrims cannot be overlooked.”

With inputs from IANS


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