Saudi asserts that investigation into haj tragedy will be transparent

Atleast 769 pilgrims were killed and over 930 injured in a stampede near Mecca on Thursday

The stampede in Mina last year left hundreds dead

Saudi Arabia has asserted that the investigation into the haj tragedy will be “transparent” and that any violators will be punished.

Atleast 769 pilgrims were killed and over 930 injured in a stampede near Mecca on Thursday, making it the worst haj disaster in the last 25 years.

The incident occurred on Street 204 in Mina, when two massive lines of pilgrims converged from different directions close to the Jamarat Bridge for the stoning of the devil ritual.

Saudi foreign minister Adel bin Ahmed Al-Jubeir said: “The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques [King Salman] has directed to launch a thorough investigation that will be transparent.

“We will reveal the facts when they emerge, and we will not hold anything back.”

Saudi’s King Salman has ordered a review of haj plans and the formation of a committee to probe the disaster.

“If mistakes were made, those who made them will be held accountable, and we will make sure that we will learn from this in order to ensure that it doesn’t happen again,” Al Jubeir added.

However Saudi’s regional rival Iran has hit out against the kingdom’s handling of the haj and has demanded an apology.

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani said: “I ask the Saudi Arabian government to take the responsibility of this catastrophe and fulfil its legal and Islamic duties in this regard.”

At least 155 Iranian pilgrims died in the stampede while 300 others remain unaccounted for.

The criticism has been stronger from Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei who said Muslim countries should demand Saudi Arabia be held accountable for the deaths.

“Instead of blaming this and that, the Saudis should accept the responsibility and apologise to the Muslims and the victims’ families,” Khamenei was quoted as saying.

However Al Jubeir has hit back against Iran’s comments saying the issue should not be politicised.

“I believe that the Iranians should know better than to try to make – play politics with a tragic event that has befallen people who were performing the most sacred religious duty, which is the pilgrimage.

“I would hope that the Iranian leaders would be more sensible and more thoughtful with regards to those who perished in this tragedy and wait until we see the results of the investigation.”

He added: “We, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, have a long history of expending tremendous resources to care for the pilgrimage and to ensure that the pilgrims can come and have an extremely successful pilgrimage.”