MAKKAH — Saudi Arabia said on Tuesday that the nearly 1,100 photos distributed to foreign diplomats to help identify nationals who died in Haj were from the entire pilgrimage and not just a stampede near Makkah.
Officials in Pakistan and India had said a day earlier that Saudi officials gave their diplomats some 1,090 pictures of those killed in last Thursday’s tragedy in Mina, where two waves of pilgrims converged on a narrow road, causing hundreds of people to suffocate or be trampled to death.
But Saudi Interior Ministry spokesman Maj Gen Mansour al-Turki said the pictures included those of people who died of natural causes. Many were pilgrims who were residing in the kingdom and performing the Haj without legal permits. Some were labourers from South Asian countries who chose to work in the kingdom in order to perform the Haj.
The list included unidentified victims from the 111 people who died when a crane tipped over into Makkah’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 incident. It was the worst disaster to strike the annual pilgrimage in a quarter-century.
Death toll from stampede stands at 769, says official
Faisal Alzahrani, the ministry’s director general for communications, said on Tuesday that this figure remained unchanged. He said civil defence authorities would be responsible for announcing any new death toll, though most recently they relied on the Health Ministry statistics.
Civil defence officials could not be immediately reached. Indonesia criticised what it called Saudi Arabia’s slow response to the 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 might prove critical as many of the victims lost their ID bracelets in the crush, he said.
Mr Iqbal said 46 Indonesian pilgrims died, 10 were injured and 90 went missing.
Lukman Hakim Saifuddin, Indonesia’s religious affairs minister, said in a statement on 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,” he said from Makkah.
“This has not allowed us enough freedom in our effort to identify” the victims.
Iran has also criticised the kingdom over the deaths. At least 239 Iranian pilgrims were killed in the stampede, while 241 went missing, state television reported.