Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei threatened a “fierce” reaction on Wednesday if Saudi Arabia does not quickly repatriate victims of last week’s haj stampede.
“Saudi officials are failing to do their duties,” Khamenei said in a speech to graduating navy officers, following delays in the return of at least 239 Iranian bodies, accusing some of them of “slyness”.
“They should know that the slightest disrespect towards tens of thousands of Iranian pilgrims in Mecca and Medina and not fulfilling their obligation to transfer holy bodies, will have Iran’s tough and fierce reaction.”
The comments underscored Iran’s increased frustration at Saudi Arabia’s refusal to allow a cargo plane into the kingdom to retrieve the dead and take them back to Tehran.
“The Islamic Republic of Iran has so far showed self-restraint and abided by Islamic politeness and brotherhood,” Khamenei added, urging the formation of a fact-finding committee among Islamic countries to investigate the causes of the stampede.
Six days after the tragedy, many bodies have yet to be identified. Iran fears 241 of its nationals who are unaccounted for may be among them.
Khamenei’s remarks came hours after Iran summoned the Saudi envoy in Tehran for the fourth time since the stampede to demand the swift identification and repatriation of bodies.