The National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) has confirmed the death of 54 Nigerians in last Thursday’s deadly stampede in Mina, Saudi Arabia, during this year’s Hajj.
This is just as the Iranian government, Monday, joined the Jama’atu Nasril Islam, a group led by the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar lll, in the call for probe of the stampede at this year’s hajj in Saudi Arabia which claimed the lives of over 700 Muslims.
Speaking, Monday, in Makkah, Chairman of NAHCON, Mr. Abdullahi Mohammed, disclosed that 42 out of the 54 that died were from states’ Pilgrims Welfare Boards including two NAHCON officials, while others were among those on the pilgrimage by private tour operators.
“Mohammed listed 15 states of Bauchi, Borno, Zamfara, Cross River, Jigawa, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Nasarawa, Niger, Ogun, Ondo, Sokoto, Taraba and Yobe, as those that lost pilgrims to the stampede,” the report said.
At least 769 died and 934 injured in the crush at Mina, around 5 kilometres east of Islam’s holy city of Mecca, as pilgrims returned from or headed to the ritual “stoning of the devil” at Jamarat.
The mishap claimed high profile individuals in the country including two justices of the Court of Appeal, Justice Abubakar Abdulkadir Jega, brother of former Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Chairman, Profesor Attahiru Jega, and Justice Musa Hassan Alkali, and front line journalist and columnist, Hajiya Bilikisu Yusuf.
Others are the Amirul Hajj of Taraba State, Alhaji Abbas Ibrahim, and two of his wives are also among the dead.
Sokoto State lost nine pilgrims in the stampede. Also, a staff of the National Youth Service Corps, NYSC reportedly died in the crush.
Meanwhile, Iran has promised to take international legal action against Saudi Arabia’s rulers as tensions continue to mount over the deadly Hajj stampede. Iran has also demanded an apology from Saudi Arabia, prompting a strong backlash from the Kingdom, which accuses its rival of playing politics with the tragedy.
Iran has said 155 of its citizens were killed in the crush, reportedly the highest total across all countries.
“Under international law, this incident is absolutely subject to prosecution. The Al-Saud must be responsive,” Iran’s State Prosecutor Sayed Ibrahim Raisi told state television. Referring to the ruling family, he added: “They have to know that we will pursue the trial of Al-Saud for the crime they have committed against the hajj pilgrims through international courts and organisations.”
Tensions between the Sunni and Shi’ite nations continued to mount as Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, said Saudi Arabia should apologise, while President Hassan Rouhani called for an investigation into the catastrophe during a speech at the UN in New York. Angry protestors in Iran chanted “death to the Saudi dynasty”.
“This issue will not be forgotten and the nations will pursue it seriously,” Ayatollah Khamenei said. “Instead of accusing this and that, the Saudis should accept the responsibility and apologise to the Muslims and the victims’ families.”
“The Islamic world has a lot of questions. The death of more than 1,000 people is not a small issue,” he added in a mention to claims made by Iranian officials of a higher death toll.
Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir has dismissed criticism from the country’s bitter rival, with the two nations locked in regional proxy wars. “I believe that the Iranians should know better than to play politics with a tragedy that has befallen people who were performing their most sacred religious duty,” he said.
The Saudis have been backed by the country’s top cleric in the hostile fallout from the event, who said he did not hold authorities responsible for the crush. “You are not responsible for what happened,” Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin-Abdullah al-Sheikh told the country’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, who is also chairman of the Supreme Hajj Committee.
It would be recalled that the Jama’atu Nasril Islam, led by the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar lll, Sunday urged Saudi Arabian authorities to probe the stampede which led to the death of over 700 Muslims in this year’s hajj operation.
“This is one tragedy too many,” the JNI in a statement by its Secretary-General, Dr. Khalid Abubakar-Aliyu, in Kaduna, Sunday.
“It is indeed gratifying that the Saudi authorities have been doing everything humanly possible to make the Hajj as smooth as it should be, but we still call on them to investigate the Jamarat stampede in order to avert future occurrence.”