Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has once again questioned Saudi Arabia's ability to manage Islam's holiest sites, accusing the kingdom of murder in last year's deadly hajj pilgrimage stampede.
"The heartless and murderous Saudis locked up the injured with the dead in containers — instead of providing medical treatment and helping them or at least quenching their thirst. They murdered them,'' Khamenei said in a statement on his website, marking the anniversary of the disaster. He offered no evidence to support the allegations.
Saudi Arabia immediately lashed back. Crown Prince and Interior Minister Mohammed bin Nayef said Iran is attempting to "politicize'' the pilgrimage, which is required at least once for all able-bodied Muslims.
The stampede at last year's hajj left 769 people dead, according to the Saudi government. The Associated Press said the death toll was at least 2,426, after examining state media reports and officials' comments from countries whose citizens participated in the pilgrimage.
Tehran has said 464 of the dead were Iranian, and blamed the catastrophe on Saudi mismanagement.
The language employed in the latest flap was harsh even for the two regional rivals involved in opposite sides of the civil wars in Syria and Yemen.
"They must not let those rulers escape responsibility for the crimes they have caused throughout the world of Islam," Khamenei said.
"What Iranian media and some Iranian officials are raising is not objective and they know before anyone else that the kingdom has given the Iranian pilgrims what it gave others," Prince Nayef said.