Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei declared three days of national mourning over the death of 1,300 Hajj pilgrims, including at least 125 Iranians, in a stampede incident in Mina near the city of Mecca.
In his message on Thursday evening the Iranian Leader expressed condolences to the bereaved families of all those killed in the incident, specially the Iranians, and declared three days of national mourning in the country.
Meantime, Ayatollah Khamenei blasted the Saudi government, saying that Riyadh should accept its responsibility for "mismanagement" and adoption of "improper measures".
"Mismanagement and improper measures that caused this tragedy should not be overlooked,” he said, stressing that "the Saudi government is required to accept its heavy responsibility for this bitter incident and meet its obligations in compliance with the rule of righteousness and fairness".
The stampede during one of the last rituals of the Hajj season killed more than 1,300 people and left over 2,000 of others wounded.
The stampede occurred during the ritual known as "Stoning the Devil" in Mina, about two miles from Mecca.
Some 125 Iranians have also lost their lives in the incident, while 150 others have been wounded.
Meantime, sources revealed that the convoy of Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Crown Prince and Defense Minister Mohammad bin Salman Al Saud caused panic among millions of pilgrims and started the stampede.
"The large convoy of Mohammad bin Salman Al Saud, the King’s son and deputy crown prince, that was escorted by over 3,50 security forces, including 200 army men and 150 policemen, sped up the road to go through the pilgrims that were moving towards the site of the ‘Stoning the Devil’ ritual, causing panic among millions of pilgrims who were on the move from the opposite direction and caused the stampede," several Arab papers, including the Arabic language al-Dyar newspaper, disclosed on Thursday evening.
"That’s why the ruler of Mecca has distanced himself from the case, stressing that the issue should be studied and decided by the King," it added.
No other source has yet confirmed the report, but observers said the revelation explains why two of the roads to the ‘Stoning the Devil’ site has been closed.
Eye witnesses said earlier that the Saudi police and security forces had closed two of the few roads to the stone column that were to be used by millions of pilgrims to do the ‘Stoning the Devil’ ritual today.
Saeed Ohadi, the head of Iran’s Hajj organization, accused Saudi Arabia of safety errors and mismanagement.
He said for "unknown reasons" the paths had been closed off near the scene of the symbolic stoning of the devil ritual where the accident later took place.
"This caused this tragic incident," he told the Iranian state television.
Eyewitness accounts said that even after incident the Saudi security and military forces closed all paths leading to the scene and the bodies of pilgrims have piled up on each other.
The number of the Iranian pilgrims killed at the recent crush in Saudi Arabia’s Mina has reached 131, an Iranian official says.
Saeed Ohadi, the head of Iran’s Hajj and Pilgrimage Organization, made the announcement on Thursday night, adding that the number of the fatalities could rise.
He also said that the transfer to Tehran of the bodies as well as those who had sustained injury during the incident will start next week.
The incident occurred in Mina, near Mecca, at 9 am local time (0600 GMT) on Thursday after two large masses of pilgrims fused together.
Iran’s Hajj and Pilgrimage Organization says the tragic incident claimed the lives of more than 1,300 people, including 131 Iranians. Saudi officials, however, put the death toll at 717.
Saudi Arabia has come under mounting criticism following the catastrophe.
Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei has declared three days of national mourning following the disaster. Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani has also asked Riyadh to take responsibility for the disaster and fulfill its legal and Islamic obligations in this regard.
Arabic-language daily al-Diyar has said the presence of the convoy of Prince Mohammad bin Salman Al Saud, the son of Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, in the middle of the population prompted a change in the direction of the movement of the pilgrims and the subsequent crush. It said Salman had sought to attend the huge gathering of pilgrims in Mina.