The Iranian death toll in the recent stampede during the Hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia has jumped above 450, state media reported.
The rise in the number of confirmed Iranian victims could prompt further outbursts from the Iranian government against Saudi Arabia, its bitter regional rival.
Iran’s Hajj and Pilgrimage Organization said Thursday that the number of Iranian pilgrims killed now stands at 464, according to official broadcaster PressTV. Fourteen others are still receiving treatment in Saudi hospitals, it said.
Previous updates from the organization had put the number of dead Iranian pilgrims at 239, with 241 others unaccounted for.
Saudi Arabia’s state-run news agency SPA has reported that at least 769 people were killed in the stampede with 900 others injured. Iran has claimed the overall toll is higher.
Iran threatens ‘harsh’ retaliation
Iran’s Supreme Leader on Wednesday kept up the verbal broadsides against Saudi Arabia, threatening it with “tough and harsh” retaliation because Iranian stampede victims weren’t being repatriated swiftly enough.
“Saudi Arabia failed to fulfill its duties concerning the desperate wounded (pilgrims),” said Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, according to PressTV.
Iran’s Foreign Ministry released a statement saying that Khamenei had urged the formation of a fact-finding committee of Muslim nations, including Iran, to investigate the disaster.
The ministry also summoned the Saudi charge d’affaires Wednesday, warning against any delay in identifying and repatriating missing and dead Iranian pilgrims, Iran’s state-run Mehr News Agency reported.
Iran and Saudi Arabia have been locked in a war of words over last week’s stampede, with Riyadh accusing Tehran of politicizing the tragedy and Tehran demanding an apology from Saudi Arabia, which it says mismanaged the Hajj.
The crush took place September 24 at Mina, a neighborhood about 2 miles from the Mecca holy site.