Date: Fri, 25 Apr 97 21:28:03 CDT
From: MID-EAST REALITIES <mer@MiddleEast.Org>

M I D - E A S T R E A L I T I E S - WWW.MiddleEast.Org

Saudi Haj fire victims blocked-in

By Parveez Syed, Shanti RTV news. 24 April, 1997

[MER - While the corrupt and despostic House of Saud continues to drain the wealth of Arabia into foreign bank accounts, cooperating ever more closely with the U.S. and Israel in its quest to retain power, "the Kingdom" remains underdeveloped in basic ways as tremendous resources are continually poured into arms, "security", and Royal Family excesses.

It also needs to be said that when a few Americans were killed in the recent past by "terrorism" in Saudi Arabia, the U.S. insisted on an unprecedented investigation and trial for those responsible. Now many thousands of Muslims have been killed in what appears to be a case of gross criminal negligence, or worse, and few voices are being heard demanding a full-scale investigation, holding those responsible accountable, and paying compensation to the families from the treasure-chest of the "Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques", the King of Saudi Arabia. MER has no independent means of verification regarding these matters, but we are able to make usually sound judgements as to what information is credible and independent.

This article by Parveez Syed and Shanti RTV News in London is a follow-up to one from earlier in the week. And the Communique from the CDLR, also in London, sheds further light on what now seems to have really happened in the past few weeks in Saudi Arabia. While the styles of presentation may not be our own, they nevertheless are repesentative of a growing sentiment that the days of the House of Saud may be numbered and American control of the Arabian Gulf may not be as secure as the American's believe it to be.]

JEDDAH [SCN - 4/24/97] - Thousand of haj fire victims in Saudi Arabia were not allowed to flee from the Mina camp fire site, US and Saudi intelligence sources told Shanti RTV news agency.

The pilgrims who were killed in the fire near Makkah last Tuesday (15 April 1997) could have fled the flames, "but instead of evacuating around 700,000 pilgrims promptly from the fire site to safety, the incompetent and negligent Saudi security agents locked them inside the government controlled compound, known and controlled exit routes. Thousands of victims could have been evacuated to safety from the mismanaged death trap," the sources told Shanti RTV news agency.

Most of the victims were old, fragile, women and disabled pilgrims. "During and after the fire there was chaos and panic, and the emergency services failed to provide timely treatment. The priority of the unaccountable Saudi officials before, during and after Haj, from the king Fahd down, is almost always directed towards the VIPs and political security or survival," a Saudi intelligence source told Shanti RTV news agency.

Able-bodied Muslims are obliged to make the haj at least once if they can afford it. Most of the killed and injured were crushed in the stampede, and thousands are still unaccounted for, and hundreds of badly burnt victims are yet to be identified. The source said identification was difficult as many bodies were severely burnt.

"Unaccountable officials and security agents in Saudi Arabia thought the fire would not reach other tents. They did not allow the pilgrims to escape through safe and secured Saudi government encampment, allegedly to prevent panicked exodus," the sources explained. Finding the compound gates locked, some pilgrims tore down corrugated tin walls that divided the 70,000 camps and fled.

"This was another preventable tragedy. It was caused by a failure in prevention and management. The Makkah municipality had to send 250 undertakers to bury the dead," according to MIRA (the Movement for Islamic Reform in Arabia).

The haj has been the scene of several recent preventable disasters, including the deaths in stampedes of more than 1,700 pilgrims in 1990 and 1994. "The preventable tragedies have led to growing criticism of royal Saudi dictators by pilgrims and Muslim governments who say the self-serving cutodians of holy shrines are unfit manage and host the annual event," a Saudi intelligence source told Shanti RTV.

Royal Saudi dictators, the self-preserving custodians of Islam's two holiest shrines, claim the country has spent US $19 billion on expanding and upgrading haj facilities to ensure the comfort and safety of the pilgrims. Last week more than 16,000 Saudi security agents patrolled the holy areas and roads leading to the holy sites and hundreds of police helicopters circled overhead. Security cameras installed on main roads, bridges and tunnels monitor pilgrims' movements to ensure that haj is policed and video-taped. Saudi officials order the pilgrims to abide by security instructions. More than 37,500 doctors, nurses, security agents, bakers, cleaners and garbage collectors are hired on short-term contracts every year to service the pilgrims.

Parveez Syed's direct contact details are:
One Stuart Road, Thornton Heath, Surrey CR7 8RA1 UK
Tel: London-UK 44-0831-196693;
Fax/tel: 44-0181-665 0384

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