Sources Blame Saudi Deputy Crown Prince for Thursday Stampede in Mina
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 that has so far claimed the lives of 1,300 in Mina, near Mecca, on Thursday.
“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 in Mina today.
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 131 Iranians have also lost their lives in the incident, while 150 others have been wounded.
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.
Eyewitnesses also 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.
Others blamed Riyadh for mismanagement of Hajj ceremony, adding that many of the wounded pilgrims are dying of the hot weather conditions, which reached 46 degrees centigrade today, while police and the army have closed access roads to the site of the incident making the relief and rescue operations and trafficking of ambulances very difficult.
Pilgrims present on the scene are also complaining about insufficient number of medical teams and centers. Reports said hospitals are overwhelmed by the the large number of the wounded.
Twelve hours after the incident, the dead body of hundreds of those killed in the stampede are still piled up out in the streets.
Head of the Iranian pilgrims Qazai Askar in an interview with the state TV on Thursday evening complained that the Saudi officials do not allow other countries’ relief and rescue squads to help.
“They have even prevented us from aiding our own pilgrims,” he complained with surprise.
This is the third incident in the Hajj rituals this year.
In the first incident, a crane crash over the Grand Mosque of Mecca killed over 100 and injured hundreds more two weeks ago.
Ten days before the start of Hajj this year, a construction crane crashed through the roof of the Grand Mosque in Mecca, killing 107 people. At least 238 others suffered injuries when a powerful storm toppled the crane.
A week later, a fire incident at a Mecca hotel claimed the lives of several other pilgrims.
A Saudi analyst said on the condition of anonymity for the fear of his life that the two stampede and crane crash incidents were the result of rivalries between a part of the Saudi police and security service and Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud to display that the Saudi king and crown prince are incompetent and unable to handle the Hajj ceremony.
Rivalries are tough and deep among different royal families who are all descendant of the Al-Saud and see themselves entitled to the thrown. The present king is the first from Sodayri family of Al-Saudi to have ascended to power.
This is not the first time that hundreds die during the Hajj rituals.
The ceremony was the scene of stampedes and hundreds of deaths in the 1980s and 1990s as pilgrims passed a crowded bottleneck area leading to the small pillars on the ground.