Hajj stampede raises questions over Saudi organisation

(AGI) Rome, Sept 25 - The closure of two roads around Jamaratto allow dignitaries to visit Mina was to blame for thebottleneck and death of 717 pilgrims in Mecca, said MohammadJafari, a consultant for a British hajj tour operator. He toldBBC radio: "It is not God's will. It is man's incompetence thatcaused the crush of worshipers in Mecca that led to the deathof more than 700 pilgrims." After seeing the pictures in theSaudi media and hearing from witnesses, Mr Jafari argued, "themain reason for this accident was that the king, in his

(AGI) Rome, Sept 25 - The closure of two roads around Jamaratto allow dignitaries to visit Mina was to blame for thebottleneck and death of 717 pilgrims in Mecca, said MohammadJafari, a consultant for a British hajj tour operator. He toldBBC radio: "It is not God's will. It is man's incompetence thatcaused the crush of worshipers in Mecca that led to the deathof more than 700 pilgrims." After seeing the pictures in theSaudi media and hearing from witnesses, Mr Jafari argued, "themain reason for this accident was that the king, in his palacein Mina, was receiving dignitaries and for this reason theyclosed two entrances to where the stoning happened ... thesewere the two roads where people were not able to proceed", andthat became crowded. He said the Saudi authorities wereresponsible "because any time a prince comes along, they closethe roads, they don't think about the disaster waiting tohappen". He went on: "There must be an investigation if 717people have lost their lives because a few royals wanted tothrow stones" for the symbolic stoning of Satan." Questions aregrowing about the causes of the carnage, the worst incidentsince 1990. CNN pointed out that there was little time toperform the rites given such a large number of people, veryhigh temperatures and strenuous pace combined with theinexperience and confusion of pilgrims on the hajj for thefirst time many of whom are not willing to follow instructions.The death of pilgrims in Mecca places further strain onrelations between Riyadh and Tehran which, after the death of131 citizens, has organised a protest demonstration against theSaudi hajj organisation. "Saudi Arabia is incapable oforganising the pilgrimage," said Ayatollah Mohammad EmamiKashani at Friday prayers in Tehran. Iranian President HassanRouhani, in New York at the United Nations, urged the Riyadhgovernment to "assume responsibility '' for the disaster.. .