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Iran haj victims arrive home

Saturday, October 03, 2015 - 00:46

The first plane carrying the bodies of some of the 464 Iranian pilgrims killed in a haj stampede in Saudi Arabia has landed in Tehran. Rough cut (no reporter narration).

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ROUGH CUT - NO REPORTER NARRATION The first plane carrying the bodies of Iranian pilgrims killed in a haj stampede landed in Tehran's Mehrabad airport on Saturday (October 3). More than 464 Iranian nationals were killed in last month's crush in Mina, Saudi Arabia, Iran's Haj Organization says. Iranian officials have alleged the overall total death toll is more than 1,000. Saudi Arabia has confirmed the deaths of 769 people. It was the annual event's worst disaster in 25 years. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani attended the repatriation ceremony at the airport and called for Saudi Arabia, a regional rival of Iran, to provide an explanation for the tragedy. At least 863 pilgrims were injured in the disaster, in which two big groups of pilgrims collided at a crossroads in Mina, a few km (miles) east of Mecca, on their way to performing the "Stoning of the Devil" ritual at Jamarat. Saudi King Salman ordered a review of haj plans, and Health Minister Khalid al-Falih said an investigation would be conducted rapidly and a final toll of dead and wounded calculated. He also said that the stampede "was perhaps because some pilgrims moved without following instructions by the relevant authorities," a statement likely to be seen as an attempt to deflect responsibility by the Kingdom's critics. Safety during the haj is highly sensitive for the ruling Al Saud dynasty, which presents itself internationally as the guardian of orthodox Islam and custodian of its holiest places in Mecca and Medina.

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Iran haj victims arrive home

Saturday, October 03, 2015 - 00:46