The number of Iranian citizens who died in the Hajj stampeded in Saudi Arabia last week has reached 464 – nearly double the previous toll, Iranian officials say.
Iranian authorities said there was no longer hope of finding any of the country’s missing pilgrims alive.
According to Saudi officials, 769 people died in the crush in Mina, near Mecca, and 934 were injured.
The Saudis have been criticized over their handling of security and for the slow publication of casualty figures.
Iranian officials allege that the overall number of deaths is now more than 1,000. Pakistan, India, and Indonesia have also suggested death toll may be higher than the 769 reported by Saudi Arabia.
Saudi authorities have not released a breakdown of victims by nationality, but a tally of the numbers of dead released by individual countries adds up to more than the official figure.
The crush occurred as two large groups of pilgrims converged at right angles on the way to taking part in one of the Hajj’s major rites at the Jamarat pillars.
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has called on Saudi Arabia to apologize for the deadly stampede and warned of “harsh” measures if the kingdom fails to promptly repatriate the bodies of Iran’s dead.
Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir has accused Iran of “playing politics” with the disaster and called on the Islamic Republic to await the outcome of an investigation ordered by Saudi Arabia’s King Salman.
Saeed Ohadi, the head of Iran’s Hajj department, told state television that Iranian officials are trying to return bodies of Iranian pilgrims “as soon as possible”.
He said Iran and Saudi Arabia have agreed not to bury any of the dead in Saudi Arabia without prior permission by Iran or the families of the deceased.
Saudi officials have blamed pilgrims for the stampede, suggesting some had “moved without following instructions by the relevant authorities”.
The Hajj disaster was the second to strike the region in two weeks, after a crane collapsed at the Grand Mosque in Mecca, killing 109 people.
Saudi Arabia’s Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin-Abdullah al-Sheikh has said Thursday’s stampede that killed 717 people at the annual Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca was beyond human control.
The country’s most senior cleric told the interior minister, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, that he was not to blame for the tragedy.
Iran and several other countries have criticized Saudi authorities for the way they handled safety issues.
It was the deadliest incident to occur during the pilgrimage in 25 years.
King Salman of Saudi Arabia has ordered a safety review.
Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin-Abdullah al-Sheikh was visited by the crown prince, who is also deputy prime minister and chairman of the Supreme Hajj Committee, on September 25, the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported.
“You are not responsible for what happened,” the grand mufti said, the SPA reported.
“As for the things that humans cannot control, you are not blamed for them. Fate and destiny are inevitable.”
The cleric’s remarks came after Iran’s Supreme National Security Council accused the Saudis of “incompetence” and urged them to “take responsibility” for the deaths.
Iran has so far reported the greatest number of deaths among foreign nationals – 131.
Voices from other countries are also demanding answers from the Saudis, and the king’s promise of an investigation and review has done little to still the clamor for greater accountability.
The crush occurred on September 24 as two million pilgrims were taking part in the Hajj’s last major rite.
The pilgrims throw seven stones at pillars called Jamarat, which stand at the place where Satan is believed to have tempted the Prophet Abraham.
With temperatures around 46C, two massive lines of pilgrims converged on each other at right angles at an intersection close to the five-storey Jamarat Bridge in Mina, a large valley about 3 miles from Mecca.
It is also the second disaster to strike in two weeks, after a crane collapsed at the Grand Mosque in Mecca, killing 109 people.
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