Iran dou­bles its death toll from the Sept. 24 hajj stam­pede to 464

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL -

Iran on Thurs­day nearly dou­bled its death toll from the hajj stam­pede to 464, giv­ing up hope of find­ing miss­ing pil­grims alive af­ter a tragedy that has sparked a ma­jor row with Saudi Ara­bia.

Af­ter Iran threat­ened a “fierce” re­sponse to de­lays repa­tri­at­ing its dead, Tehran and Riyadh reached an agree­ment to speed up the re­turn of the bod­ies of Ira­nian vic­tims.

Tehran has ac­cused its re­gional ri­val Saudi Ara­bia of hin­der­ing its ef­forts to bring home the bod­ies.

The Is­lamic re­pub­lic has the high­est con­firmed death toll among for­eign na­tion­al­i­ties by far, ac­count­ing for more than half of the 769 killed, fol­lowed by Egypt with 75.

“Seven days af­ter this tragic ac­ci­dent ... the sta­tus of all (pil­grims) in­jured has been com­pletely cleared and re­ported,” Iran’s hajj or­ga­ni­za­tion said in a state­ment Thurs­day car­ried by state tele­vi­sion.

Around 240 Ira­ni­ans were pre­vi­ously de­clared dead af­ter the crush on Sept. 24 near Mecca, with more than 200 clas­si­fied as miss­ing.

Ali Marashi, head of the Ira­nian Red Cres­cent’s hajj med­i­cal cen­ter in Tehran, said that his or­ga­ni­za­tion had vis­ited hos­pi­tals look­ing for the miss­ing “and sadly we have not found even one per­son who might be Ira­nian.”

“Saudi of­fi­cials are fail­ing to do their du­ties,” Iran’s supreme leader Ay­a­tol­lah Ali Khamenei said in a speech Wed­nes­day to grad­u­at­ing navy of­fi­cers.

Ac­cord­ing to Iran’s for­eign min­istry, the miss­ing in­clude Ghazanfar Rokn­abadi, 49, the coun­try’s for­mer am­bas­sador to Le­banon, a highly sen­si­tive post.

The two re­gional ri­vals were al­ready at odds over Iran’s sup­port for Shi­ite Huthi rebels in Ye­men, where a Saudi-led Arab coali­tion has waged months of air strikes against the in­sur­gents. Riyadh has ac­cused Tehran of play­ing pol­i­tics with the hajj tragedy.

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