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Trials soon in deadly Saudi crane collapse: Reports

Authorities in Saudi Arabia said a deadly crane collapse last year in Mecca was partly the fault of construction company the Binladin Group
Muslim pilgrims take pictures in front of the crane that collapsed the day before at the Grand Mosque on 12 September 2015 in Saudi Arabia's holy Muslim city of Mecca (AFP)

Suspects are to face trial in Saudi Arabia over a deadly crane accident that killed more than 100 people at Islam's holiest site, local media reported on Wednesday.

The Arab News and Saudi Gazette dailies said investigators have sent the case to the criminal court in Mecca after an eight-month probe.

A trial is expected "soon," the Arab News said, but provided no details on potential charges or the number of suspects.

The Saudi Gazette said those charged include engineers and two officials working for government agencies in Mecca.

The tragedy led to government sanctions against one of the world's biggest construction companies, Saudi Binladin Group, contributing to the firm's financial troubles.

It was not clear whether the company or any of its employees are among those who will be tried. A Saudi Binladin Group spokesman could not be immediately reached for comment.

The 11 September tragedy killed at least 108 people and injured about 400, including foreigners who had arrived ahead of the annual hajj pilgrimage which began later that month.

During severe winds a construction crane toppled into a courtyard of the Grand Mosque. It was one of several cranes the Binladin Group had employed as part of a multi-billion-dollar expansion to accommodate increasing numbers of faithful.

A government investigative committee which reported days after the incident found the company "in part responsible" and said the crane was in the wrong position.

Saudi Arabia's King Salman took swift action after the accident by suspending Saudi Binladin Group from new public contracts.

The company said in May that the sanction had been lifted, but after the firm laid off tens of thousands of employees.

Days after the crane collapse, a second tragedy struck when more than 2,000 people died in a stampede near Mecca during the annual hajj.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, the interior minister who also chairs the hajj committee, ordered a probe immediately after the stampede disaster but there has been no word on its findings.

Authorities have, however, announced new safety measures to help protect pilgrims.