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Saudi Officials Deny 1,100 Killed in Mina Tragedy
Muslim pilgrims and rescuers gather around people who were crushed by overcrowding in Mina, Saudi Arabia during the annual hajj pilgrimage, Sept. 24, 2015. AP
Wednesday, 30 September, 2015 | 10:04 WIB
Saudi Officials Deny 1,100 Killed in Mina Tragedy

TEMPO.CO, Mecca-Saudi Arabia said Tuesday the nearly 1,100 photos distributed to foreign diplomats to help identify nationals who have died in the hajj are from the entire pilgrimage and not just a disaster near Mecca.

Officials in India and Pakistan said a day earlier that Saudi officials gave their diplomats some 1,090 pictures of those killed in last Thursday's disaster in Mina, where two waves of pilgrims converged on a narrow road, causing hundreds of people to suffocate or be trampled to death.

The death toll of Indonesians in the Mina Tragedy has risen to 57 from the previous reports of 46, according to the Head of the Mecca working area of the Indonesian Hajj Pilgrims Committee (PPIH), Arsyad Hidayat on Wednesday, September 30.

Indonesian Minister of Religious Affairs Lukman Hakim Saifuddin had said earlier that his team received some 1,107 photos for identification. Saifuddin said there are five morgue containers of unidentified corpses at Al Muashim, Mecca, so the Hajj Committee (PPIH) team will return there to search.

Saudi Interior Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Mansour al-Turki told The Associated Press the pictures also include people who died of natural causes. Many are pilgrims who reside in the kingdom and perform the hajj without the legal permits. Some are laborers from South Asian countries who choose to work in the kingdom in order to perform the hajj.

The list also includes unidentified victims from the 111 people who died when a crane tipped over into Mecca's Grand Mosque on Sept. 11.

The Saudi Health Ministry says the death toll for the incident in Mina on Sept. 24 remains 769 people, with another 934 injured in the crush of pilgrims who were performing one of the final rites of the hajj. It was the worst disaster to strike the annual pilgrimage in a quarter-century.

Indonesia, which sends the largest contingent of pilgrims annually to the hajj, on Tuesday criticized Saudi Arabia's slow response to incident in Mina, saying its diplomats only received full access to the dead and injured on Monday night, four days after the disaster.

That access included seeing forensic records like fingerprints, said Lalu Muhammad Iqbal, an official in Indonesia's Foreign Ministry. Those fingerprints may prove critical as many of the disaster's victims lost their ID bracelets in the crush, he said.

Lukman Hakim Saifuddin, said in a statement Monday that Indonesians did not have free access to hospitals to search for those injured.

"The Saudi Arabian government has its own regulation, tradition, culture and procedures in dealing with such cases," Saifuddin said from Mecca. "This has not allowed us enough freedom in our effort to identify" the victims.

The hajj this year drew some 2 million pilgrims from 180 countries, though in recent years it has drawn more than 3 million without any major incidents. Able-bodied Muslims are required to perform the five-day pilgrimage once in their lifetime, and each year the hajj poses a massive logistical challenge for the kingdom.

AP | NZM



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