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Saudis 'murdered' Hajj pilgrims, says Iran's supreme leader

Published 05/09/2016

Hundreds of thousands of Muslim pilgrims pray outside Namira mosque in Arafat, on the second day of the annual Hajj pilgrimage near the holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia (AP)
Hundreds of thousands of Muslim pilgrims pray outside Namira mosque in Arafat, on the second day of the annual Hajj pilgrimage near the holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia (AP)

Iran's supreme leader has said Saudi Arabian authorities "murdered" Muslim pilgrims who were injured during last year's Hajj stampede.

Speaking to mark the anniversary of the disaster, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said: "The heartless and murderous Saudis locked up the injured with the dead in containers - instead of providing medical treatment and helping them or at least quenching their thirst. They murdered them."

He offered no evidence to support the allegations.

A top Saudi official said the criticism reflects "a new low" and is an attempt by Iran to "politicise the Hajj".

The September 2015 stampede and crush of pilgrims killed at least 2,426 people.

Tehran has said 464 of the dead were Iranian and blamed the catastrophe on Saudi mismanagement of the annual pilgrimage.

Khamenei has also blamed Saudi Arabia for an earlier crane collapse in Mecca that killed 111 people, and said the kingdom's rulers had "reduced the Hajj to a religious-tourist trip" while accusing Iran of "politicising" the pilgrimage.

"These accusations are not only unfounded, but also timed to only serve their unethical, failing propaganda," said Abdulmohsen Alyas, the Saudi under-secretary for international communications and media at the Ministry of Culture and Information.

"Saudi Arabia stands ready to serve the pilgrims and ensure their safety and comfort," he said.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi said the ministry has formed a committee to investigate the issue and pursue it in international forums, without elaborating.

The stampede caused a new flare-up in tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia, regional rivals that back opposite sides in the civil wars in Syria and Yemen.

The two countries severed diplomatic relations in January after Saudi Arabia executed a prominent Shiite cleric and angry Iranian crowds overran Saudi diplomatic missions.

Saudi authorities have not released the findings of their investigation into the disaster. Preliminary statements suggested the crush was caused when at least two large crowds intersected.

AP

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