Iran’s Supreme Leader is threatening Saudi Arabia with “tough and harsh” retaliation after saying that the bodies of Hajj stampede victims are not being repatriated swiftly.
“Saudi Arabia failed to fulfill its duties concerning the desperate wounded (pilgrims),” said Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, according to Iran’s official PressTV.
“Should we decide to show any reaction, our reaction will be tough and harsh,” it quoted him as saying at a military academy Wednesday.
Iran’s Foreign Ministry released a statement saying that Khamenei had urged the formation of a fact-finding committee of Muslim nations, including Iran, to investigate the disaster.
The Ministry also summoned the Saudi charge d’affaires Wednesday, warning against any delay in identifying and repatriating missing and dead Iranian pilgrims, Iran’s state-run Mehr News Agency reported.
War of words
Iran and Saudi Arabia have been stepping up their war of words over last Thursday’s stampede, with Riyadh accusing Tehran of politicizing the tragedy and Tehran demanding an apology from Saudi Arabia, which it says mismanaged the Hajj.
The Saudi state-run SPA news agency says at least 769 people were killed and more than 900 injured in the crush at Mina, a neighborhood about 2 miles from the Mecca holy site, but Iran says the death toll is higher.
Iran’s Hajj and Pilgrimage Organization says 239 Iranian pilgrims have so far been confirmed dead, with 241 others unaccounted for, PressTV said Wednesday. It referred to what it said was an overall death toll of 4,173.
Khamenei also lashed out Sunday at Saudi Arabia over the Mina deaths.
“Saudi Arabia’s rulers, instead of shifting blame (to others), must accept their responsibility in this heavy mishap by apologizing to the Islamic Ummah and their bereft families, and meeting their obligations to that effect,” Khamenei said, according to a statement released by his office.
“The Muslim world has many questions, and the deaths of more than 1,000 people in this incident is not a minor issue; therefore, the Muslim world must think of a remedy to this issue,” he continued. Iran and some other Muslim nations dispute the death toll released by Saudi Arabia.
SOURCE: Susannah Cullinane