Iran’s Minister of Health says some of the missing Iranian pilgrims involved in the Mena incident in Saudi Arabia may be under arrest by Saudi authorities or still in Saudi hospitals.

Hassan Hashemi

Hassan Hashemi

Meanwhile, Hassan Qashqavi, the Deputy Foreign Minister for Consular Affairs, said it is not clear yet whether the 116 Iranian pilgrims missing in Saudi Arabia have passed away or are perhaps in Saudi prisons.

Two weeks ago, a large number of pilgrims in Mena, outside Mecca, were killed in a stampede due to overcrowding in the lanes between the tents set up in Mena for pilgrimage rituals. While Saudi authorities put the number of dead at around 800, Iranian sources say more than 4,000 pilgrims were killed. The number of Iranian pilgrims killed in the incident is reportedly very high compared to the fatalities from other countries.

Saudi Arabia and Iran have used confrontational language over this issue, with Iran accusing Saudi Arabia of mismanagement of the pilgrimage ceremonies and Saudi Arabia saying Iran is exploiting the tragedy for political purposes.

Iran’s health minister, who is in Saudi Arabia on behalf of Iranian pilgrims, reported yesterday that the remains of 300 pilgrims have already been returned to Iran. He added that they are still going through different morgues and looking for the missing Iranians and that after investigations are completed, the Iranian government will have to discuss the issue of any Iranian pilgrim that has not been located through Saudi authorities.

Iran has called for a probe into the Mena incident with the participation of Muslim countries.