First Iran hajj dead return, nine days after stampede

TEHRAN (AFP) – The first bodies of Iranians killed in a deadly stampede at the hajj arrived home from Saudi Arabia on Saturday, after a controversial nine-day delay and questions over the final death toll.

President Hassan Rouhani and other top officials laid white flowers on coffins at a sombre repatriation ceremony for the 104 pilgrims — among at least 464 Iranians who died in the September 24 crush.

Iranian officials have accused Saudi authorities of incompetence in their handling of safety at the hajj, further souring relations already strained by the civil war in Syria and conflict in Yemen.

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