1st Iran hajj dead flown home 9 days af­ter stam­pede

The China Post - - FRONT PAGE - BY ARTHUR MACMIL­LAN

The first bod­ies of Ira­ni­ans killed in a stam­pede at the hajj ar­rived home from Saudi Ara­bia Satur­day af­ter a con­tro­ver­sial nine-day de­lay and ques­tions over the fi­nal death toll.

Pres­i­dent Has­san Rouhani and other top of­fi­cials laid white flow­ers on coffins at a som­bre cer­e­mony in Tehran for the 104 pil­grims — among 464 Ira­ni­ans de­clared dead in the Sept. crush.

Iran has ac­cused Saudi Ara­bia of in­com­pe­tence in its han­dling of safety at the hajj, fur­ther sour­ing re­la­tions al­ready strained by the civil war in Syria and con­flict in Ye­men.

“If it were proved that some (author­i­ties) were guilty in this ac­ci­dent, we will not for­give,” Rouhani said as the bod­ies emerged in red cas­kets from a cargo plane at Mehrabad Air­port in Tehran.

The pres­i­dent was ac­com­pa­nied by the heads of Iran’s ju­di­ciary and par­lia­ment as well as the chief of staff of supreme leader Ay­a­tol­lah Ali Khamenei’s of­fice.

“Our lan­guage in this ac­ci­dent was one of brother­hood and re­spect and the lan­guage of diplo­macy was used when nec­es­sary,” Rouhani said. “If needed, the lan­guage of au­thor­ity will also be used.”

Iran has been deeply crit­i­cal of the slow pace at which the Saudi author­i­ties have iden­ti­fied the dead.

More bod­ies were ex­pected to be flown home later on Satur­day but Iran’s health min­is­ter said not all of the Ira­nian dead had yet been found and many were thought to be ly­ing uniden­ti­fied in sealed con­tain­ers.

AFP

Ira­nian of­fi­cials pray over the cas­kets of Ira­nian pil­grims, killed in a stam­pede at the an­nual hajj, dur­ing a repa­tri­a­tion cer­e­mony upon their ar­rival at Tehran’s Mehrabad Air­port on Satur­day, Oct. 3. Ira­nian Pres­i­dent Has­san Rouhani and other top of­fi­cials at­tended the cer­e­mony for the 104 pil­grims, who were among at least 464 Ira­ni­ans killed in the Sept. 24 crush in Saudi Ara­bia.

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