Saudi Royals Order Hajj Stampede Investigation As Iran Leads Global Criticism

International condemnation has grown after 717 people died and 805 were wounded in a stampede near Mecca during the annual pilgrimage.

Saudi Arabia's royal family have ordered an investigation into the stampede during the Hajj outside Mecca on Thursday, which killed at least 717 people and injured 805 more.

The findings of the investigation will be submitted to the country's monarch, King Salman, who will then take action, an official statement said.

The state-run Saudi Press Agency reported Thursday:

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Naif bin Abdulaziz, Deputy Premier and Minister of Interior, who is also Chairman of Hajj Higher Committee, chaired at the Interior Ministry's Mina branch an extraordinary meeting today with the security leaders taking part in Hajj to discuss the incident that led to stampede, death and injury of tens of pilgrims in Mina earlier today, particularly the real reasons that led to the sad incident.

During the meeting, the Crown Prince instructed the formation of a high-level investigation committee to investigate the reasons of the accident and reach the real reasons behind it so as to forward the results to the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud who will instruct what he suggests.

King Salman stressed the need "to improve the level of organization and management of movement."

"We have instructed concerned authorities to review the operations plan and to raise the level of organisation and management to ensure that the guests of God perform their rituals in comfort and ease," he said, according to the BBC.

Saudi Interior Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Mansour al-Turki told reporters during a news conference Thursday afternoon that the street where the incident took place "witnessed unprecedented high number of pilgrims," the Saudi-based Al-Arabiya network reported.

He added that the incident occurred when two pathways of pilgrims converged, with one group moving at a time not allocated to them.

When asked why Saudi authorities were unable to expand the camps used for pilgrims in Mina and nearby Mashar, al-Turki said: "As per the boundaries of Mashar and Mina areas, we cannot possibly expand the locations as both areas have set boundaries that are dictated by Islamic principles for Hajj proceedings."

The Saudi Health Minister caused controversy after suggesting the stampede was caused by pilgrims not doing what they were told, Al Jazeera reported.

In a statement on his ministry's website, Khalid al-Falih said: "The investigations into the incident of the stampede that took place today in Mina, which was perhaps because some pilgrims moved without following instructions by the relevant authorities, will be fast and will be announced as has happened in other incidents."

The head of the Central Hajj Committee, Prince Khaled al-Faisal, provoked outrage when he told the Al-Arabiya network that "some pilgrims from African nationalities" were to blame for the stampede, Al Jazeera reported.

The head of the Nigerian Hajj delegation, the Emir of Kano Muhammadu Sanusi II, told the BBC that the incident "happened on the designated ways for incoming and outgoing pilgrims to the site."

The pilgrims were "crossing each other," which he said should not have happened.

"We are therefore urging the Saudi authorities not to apportion blame to the pilgrims for not obeying instructions," the Emir added.

Iran is the nation with the most confirmed fatalities so far, and has harshly condemned Saudi authorities.

According to the state news agency IRNA, Saeid Owhadi, the head of the Iranian Hajj and Pilgrimage Organization said in a televised interview that 131 Iranians had been killed and 85 injured.

Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Friday: "The Saudi government should accept the responsibility of this sorrowful incident... Mismanagement and improper actions have caused this catastrophe." He also announced three days of national mourning, the BBC reported.

Worshippers in Tehran marched through the Iranian capital after Friday prayers to demonstrate against the Saudi authorities, with some carrying black banners and chanting "death to the al-Saud family," AP reported.

Nations with confirmed fatalities in the stampede are:

Iran: 131

Morocco: 87, according to Moroccan media, as reported by Al-Arabiya.

Mali: 30, according to the country's consulate in Jeddah, as reported by AP.

Egypt: 14, according to state news agency MENA.

India: 14, according to the country's minister of external affairs.

Pakistan: 6, according to the country's foreign office, as reported by The Daily Pakistan.

Senegal: 5, Gen. Amadou Tidiane Dia said, via AP.

Nepal: 5, according to Setopati online news portal.

Turkey: 4, according to state-run Andalou Agency via Hajj Administrative Center.

Tanzania: 4

Indonesia: 3, according to Indonesian authorities cited by AP.

Kenya: 3, according to authorities cited by AP.

Netherlands: 1

An unknown number of fatalities are from Niger and Chad, according to the BBC, while eight Afghans are missing, AP reported.