Hajj stampede beyond human control, says top Saudi cleric

2015-09-26 11:44
Rescue workers attend to victims of a stampede in Mina, Saudi Arabia during the annual hajj pilgrimage. (File, AP)

Rescue workers attend to victims of a stampede in Mina, Saudi Arabia during the annual hajj pilgrimage. (File, AP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Mina - Saudi Arabia's top religious leader says a stampede which killed 717 pilgrims was beyond human control, official media reported on Saturday, the final day of this year's hajj.

The stampede was the worst disaster in a quarter-century to strike the annual event and drew fierce criticism of the Saudi authorities' handling of safety, particularly from regional rival Iran.

"You are not responsible for what happened", Sheikh Abdul Aziz al-Sheikh told Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef in a meeting in Mina on Friday, the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported.

"As for the things that humans cannot control, you are not blamed for them. Fate and destiny are inevitable," Sheikh told the prince, who is also minister of interior.

Mohammed chairs the Saudi hajj committee and has ordered an investigation into Friday's stampede during a symbolic stoning of the devil ritual by hundreds of thousands of pilgrims at Jamarat Bridge in Mina, just outside the holy city of Mecca.

King Salman, whose official title is "Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques" in Mecca and Medina, also ordered "a revision" of how the hajj is organised.

On Saturday, groups of pilgrims were moving from early morning towards Jamarat Bridge for the last of three stoning days.

The interior ministry has said it assigned 100 000 police to secure the hajj and manage crowds.

But pilgrims blamed the stampede on police road closures and poor management of the flow of hundreds of thousands of pilgrims in searing temperatures.

Abdullah al-Sheikh, chairperson of the Shura Council, an appointed body which advises the government, stressed that pilgrims must stick to "the rules and regulations taken by the security personnel. In doing so they protect their lives, their security and facilitate their performing of the rituals."

Health Minister Khaled al-Falih earlier made similar remarks that faulted the worshippers.

'Biased campaigns'

In comments carried late Friday by SPA, the Shura chairperson called on citizens and Muslims to ignore "the biased campaigns carried out by the enemies of this pure country, to question the great efforts exerted by the kingdom to serve the holy sites, their construction and expansion, and to serve the visitors and pilgrims."

Riyadh's regional rival Iran said 131 of its nationals were among the victims, and on Friday stepped up its criticism of the kingdom, demanding that affected countries have a role in the Saudi investigation into the disaster.

"Saudi Arabia is incapable of organising the pilgrimage," said Ayatollah Mohammad Emami Kashani, leading the main weekly prayers in Tehran.

"The running of the hajj must be handed over to Islamic states," he said.

Several African countries confirmed deaths in the stampede, as did India, Indonesia, Pakistan and the Netherlands. Moroccan media gave 87 nationals killed.

Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari urged King Salman "to ensure a comprehensive and thorough exercise that will identify any flaws in hajj organisation".

Buhari said his country had lost a prominent journalist, a professor "and others" in the tragedy.

Largely incident-free for nine years after safety improvements, this year's hajj was afflicted by double tragedy.

Days before it started, a construction crane collapsed at the Grand Mosque, Islam's holiest site, killing 109 people including many foreigners.

The hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam, which each of the world's more than 1.5 billion Muslims is expected to perform at least once in his or her lifetime, as long as they are capable.

Read more on:    saudi arabia  |  hajj

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

Inside News24

 
/News

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
Traffic
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.