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