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Saudi King Rejects Criticism of Kingdom as Hajj Organizer

by AFP


King Salman says critics should not attempt to exploit last month’s deadly stampede.

King Salman on Monday rejected any suggestions that Saudi Arabia should give up its role as the organizer of the hajj following last month’s deadly stampede in Mina.

“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,” said the Saudi monarch. Saudi Arabia had deployed “all its capabilities and efforts… to provide the guests of God with comfort, security and safety,” Salman said in a statement carried by SPA state news agency.

The kingdom’s organization of the hajj and its response to the disaster provoked foreign criticism, mainly from rival Iran.

An Iranian top cleric had called for the hajj to be managed by other Islamic states after at least 464 Iranians were among 1,587 pilgrims killed in the stampede, according to figures given by foreign officials. “Saudi Arabia is incapable of organizing the pilgrimage,” said Ayatollah Mohammad Emami Kashani.

Saudi Arabia has yet to provide an updated death toll after saying two days after the stampede that 769 pilgrims had died. Saudi authorities have also not provided a breakdown by nationality.

Days before the hajj, a construction crane collapsed at the Grand Mosque, Islam’s holiest site, killing 109 people including many foreigners.

Salman ordered last month “a revision” of how the hajj is organized.

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