Iran accused Saudi Arabia of safety errors after at least 43 of its citizens died today in a stampede that killed several hundred pilgrims during the annual hajj ceremonies.
After saying the kingdom was responsible for the tragedy, Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian said Saudi’s envoy to Tehran would be summoned to the foreign ministry.
The head of Iran’s hajj organisation, Said Ohadi, said that, for “unknown reasons,” two paths had been closed off near the site of a symbolic stoning of the devil ritual where the stampede occurred.
“This caused this tragic incident,” he said on state television.
The names of all Iranians killed in the stampede were read out in a sombre live broadcast in Tehran by a spokesman for the hajj organisation.
Saudi’s civil defence service has said at least 717 people were killed and 805 hurt.
Ohadi said the path closures had left only three routes to the area where the stoning ceremony was held in Mina, about five kilometres (three miles) from Mecca.
As well as the dead, at least 60 Iranians were injured, he said.
“Today’s incident shows mismanagement and lack of serious attention to the safety of pilgrims,” said Ohadi. “There is no other explanation. The Saudi officials should be held accountable.”
Abdollahian also accused Saudi officials of “tactlessness” over the lack of safety measures at the hajj.
“We can in no way be indifferent to this irresponsible behaviour of Saudi Arabia. This will be dealt with through diplomatic channels,” he said on state television.
Saudi Health Minister Khaled al-Falih has blamed undisciplined pilgrims for the tragedy, saying it could have been avoided if they had “followed instructions.”
Iran has set up a special headquarters at the accident site to support Iranian pilgrims.
“Saudi Arabian officials are responsible for this incident and they should immediately endeavour to take effective measures for managing the existing crisis and providing full security for pilgrims,” Abdollahian told the official IRNA news agency.