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Hajj Death Toll Rises As Saudi Cleric Says Stampede Beyond Human Control

Saudi Arabia says 52 more people have been added to the official death toll from a stampede at the annual hajj two days ago, raising the total to 769 killed and 934 injured.

The September 24 stampede that led to people being crushed and trampled to death was the worst loss of life at the hajj since 1990 when more than 1,400 people were killed in a similar incident.

Earlier on September 26, Saudi Arabia’s top religious leader Sheikh Abdul Aziz al-Sheikh said the tragic incident was beyond human control.

"You are not responsible for what happened," Sheikh told Crown Prince and Interior Minister Muhammad bin Nayef bin Abdelaziz at a meeting in Mina, the city where the stampede occurred.

“As for the things that humans cannot control, you are not blamed for them. Fate and destiny are inevitable," Sheikh told the prince.

Saudi King Salman and Abdelaziz have ordered an investigation into the deadly incident.

King Salman also said that he had ordered a review of the kingdom's plans for the annual hajj pilgrimage after the stampede.

Meanwhile, Iranian President Hassan Rohani has demanded that an investigation be made into the deadly stampede.

Rohani made his call in a September 26 speech at a UN summit on global development goals in New York.

He said a probe was needed to find "the causes" of the tragedy.

Tehran says 136 Iranians were killed and 102 injured in the stampede and it also urged Saudi Arabia to find 344 Iranians it says are still unaccounted for.

Iranian state prosecutor Ebrahim Raisi said on state TV on September 26 that the Saudis "have to know that we will pursue the trial of [the royal family of] Al-Saud for the crime they have committed against the hajj pilgrims through international courts and organizations."

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir accused Iran of playing politics with the tragedy.

"I would hope that the Iranian leaders would be more sensible and more thoughtful with regards to those who perished in this tragedy and wait until we see the results of the investigation," he said on September 27.

Iranian Culture Minister Ali Janati will head a delegation to Mina to oversee the repatriation of those killed and follow up on the cases of those still missing and injured.

Iranian leaders have been critical of Saudi officials and blamed their mismanagement of the massive crowds for the deaths.

The religious pilgrimage entered its final day on September 26.

Based on reporting by Reuters and AFP