Middle East

Saudi king rejects giving up Hajj management after stampede

a pilgrim is treated by a medic after a stampede that killed and injured pilgrims in the holy city of Mina during the annual hajj pilgrimage Image copyright AP
Image caption The death toll given by countries whose citizens died is higher than the official Saudi figure

Saudi Arabia's king has rejected suggestions his country should give up its role as organiser of the Hajj pilgrimage, following last month's deadly stampede.

King Salman said he would not allow any "hidden hands" to politicise the tragedy and divide Muslims.

An Iranian cleric had called for the Hajj to be managed by other Islamic states.

More than 1,480 pilgrims died in the stampede, foreign officials say.

"The irresponsible statements aiming for political exploitation of the incident... shall not affect the role of Saudi Arabia, its duty and responsibilities in serving the guests of God," King Salman said in a statement carried by the official Saudi Press Agency.

Iranian leaders have accused Saudi Arabia of mismanagement and ineptitude and called for an independent body to oversee the Hajj after the disaster, in which two crowds converged on a narrow road in Mina.

The stampede killed at least 1,480 pilgrims, according to official statements from nations whose citizens died, including at least 464 Iranians and 177 Egyptians.

If confirmed, the figure would make the stampede the deadliest-ever recorded accident to take place during the Hajj pilgrimage.

The death toll given by Saudi Arabia's Health Ministry is 769.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Mourners in Tehran last month. Iran has called for an independent body to oversee the Hajj
Image copyright AFP/Getty
Image caption Pakistani officials say 89 of their nationals died in the stampede

Hajj: Previous tragedies

2006: 364 pilgrims die in a crush at foot of Jamarat Bridge in Mina

1997: 340 pilgrims are killed when fire fuelled by high winds sweeps through Mina's tent city

1994: 270 pilgrims die in a stampede during the stoning ritual

1990: 1,426 pilgrims, mainly Asian, die in a stampede in an overcrowded tunnel leading to holy sites

1987: 402 people die when security forces break up an anti-US demonstration by Iranian pilgrims

Timeline: Deadliest stampedes

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