Iran is claiming that the number of its citizens killed in the recent Hajj tragedy near the holy city of Mecca, has nearly doubled to what had been reported earlier. Iranian TV reports say the Iranian death toll now stands at 464, not the 239 that Saudi Arabian officials had claimed.
The increase has come from identifying the bodies of some of the 241 Iranian pilgrims who were unaccounted for after the September 25 deadly stampede. They claim the final death toll is likely to rise as more bodies are identified.
Iranian authorities who blame the stampede on Saudi mismanagement, say there is "no hope of finding all those missing.” Saudi officials say the overall death toll stands at 849, with 934 injured.
Last week, Iranian Prosecutor General Ibrahim Raeesi announced that Iran would use international legal resources to sue Saudi Arabia for the deaths. Today, Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei ramped up attacks on the Saudi Government. He is now threatening Saudi Arabia with "tough and harsh" retaliation if bodies of Iranian victims are not returned to Iran swiftly.
He says, "Saudi Arabia failed to fulfill its duties concerning the desperate wounded pilgrims. Should we decide to show any reaction, our reaction will be tough and harsh."
Saudi Arabia's King Salman ordered a review of all arrangements for pilgrims to Mecca, which is being lead by his interior minister and son, Crown Prince Muhammad bin Nayef.
The stampede was the second disaster at this year’s Hajj. The first occurred in early September when a crane collapsed and killed over 100 people at Mecca’s Grand Mosque.
For several years, crowd control experts have called for measures to be taken in order to reduce the number of pilgrims allowed to take part in the Hajj each year.