Date
21 August 2017
Muslim pilgrims walk near the construction crane which crashed into the Grand Mosque in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, last Friday. Photo: Reuters
Muslim pilgrims walk near the construction crane which crashed into the Grand Mosque in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, last Friday. Photo: Reuters

Saudi suspends Bin Laden firm over crane disaster

Saudi Arabia suspended construction giant Saudi Binladin Group from new contracts following last week’s collapse of a crane in Mecca’s Grand Mosque which killed 107 people.

King Salman also ordered the finance ministry to review existing projects by the firm, Reuters reported.

The group’s board members and senior executives have been barred from travel abroad after an investigation into last Friday’s incident showed the crane was not erected in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.

The disaster was embarrassing for the Saudi ruling family, which defines itself as guardian of Islam’s holiest places and has embarked on a series of enormous construction projects in Mecca aimed at expanding its pilgrimage sites.

Saudi Binladin Group has long been regarded as the government’s favorite contractor for important or sensitive work, including defense and security projects.

The company, one of the largest contracting companies in the kingdom, had been carrying expansion work at the Grand Mosque.

It was founded more than 80 years ago by the father of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, and is run by Osama’s brother Bakr.

Explaining the action, an official statement referred without elaborating to the responsibility and “shortcomings” of the company following an investigation into the crane crash that also injured 238 other people.

The suspension, announced in a statement from the royal court, would remain in force until the investigation is complete and until all legal cases are settled, it said.

A statement by a spokesman for the administration of the mosques in Mecca and Medina said the crane smashed into the part of the Grand Mosque where worshippers circle the Kaaba – the black-clad cube towards which the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims face to pray.

“The state ‎wants to show to both the corporate and the Islamic world that they will address any wrongdoing and that they are on top of things,” said John Sfakianakis, regional director at Ashmore Group.

The hajj, one of the largest religious gatherings in the world, has been prone to disasters in the past, mainly from stampedes as pilgrims rush to complete rituals and return home. Hundreds of pilgrims died in such a crush in 2006.

However, extensive development work on the main pilgrimage sites have prevented such incidents in recent years.

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