India, Pakistan say 1,100 killed in Saudi hajj disaster
Islamabad — Saudi Arabia has given foreign diplomats some 1,100 photographs of the dead from last week’s hajj crush and stampede, Indian and Pakistani authorities said, an indication of a significantly higher death toll than previously offered by the kingdom.
Saudi officials could not be immediately reached for comment Monday night about the discrepancy in the toll of the disaster in Mina. The Saudi Health Ministry’s latest figures, released Saturday, put the toll at 769 people killed and 934 injured.
Tariq Fazal Chaudhry, a lawmaker in Pakistan’s governing PML-N political party who is leading his country’s response to the disaster, said Saudi officials gave diplomats “1,100 photos” of the dead. Chaudhry told journalists during a news conference broadcast nationwide on Monday night that the photos could be viewed at Saudi embassies and missions abroad.
“This is the official figure of martyrs from Saudi officials, given for the identification process,” Chaudhry said.
His comments echoed those of Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj from Sunday.
“Saudi authorities have released photos of 1,090 pilgrims who have died in (the hajj) stampede,” Swaraj wrote on Twitter.
Indian diplomats and government officials declined to immediately discuss or elaborate on Swaraj’s tweet Monday.
Saudi authorities have said that the disaster began when two large waves of pilgrims converged on a narrow road last Thursday during the final days of the annual hajj in Mina near the holy city of Mecca. Survivors say the crowding caused people to suffocate and eventually trample one another.
Iran, Saudi Arabia’s regional Shiite archrival, has criticized the kingdom over the hajj disaster and daily protests have taken place near the Saudi Embassy in Tehran. Iranian state media also have suggested that the death toll in the disaster was far higher, without providing any corroboration. Iranian state television has said 169 Iranian pilgrims died Thursday, while more than 300 remain missing and 100 were injured.
The hajj this year drew some 2 million pilgrims from 180 countries, though in previous 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 poses a massive logistical challenge for the kingdom.
Countries continue to count their dead from the disaster.
Abdullahi Mukhtar, the chairman of Nigeria’s national hajj commission, said 56 pilgrims from the West African nation were killed and 77 injured in the crush. Chaudhry, the Pakistani lawmaker, put his country’s death toll at 40 while dozens remain missing. Meanwhile, Morocco’s state MAP news agency said its country had at least three pilgrims killed and six injured.