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 from Mina. 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. It wasn’t immediately clear if other foreign embassies in Saudi Arabia had been given similar photographs.
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 in the worst disaster to befall the annual pilgrimage in a quarter-century.
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.
Late Monday, the death toll for Iran in the disaster rose to 226 pilgrims killed, Iranian state television quoted Saeed Saeed Ohadi, the head of the Islamic Republic’s hajj department, as saying.
Iran’s Mission to the United Nations said President Hassan Rouhani was cancelling events on Tuesday and would return to Tehran after addressing the U.N. General Assembly’s annual ministerial meeting Monday due to “the tragic events” at this year’s hajj. Rouhani had previously suggested that “ineptitude” by the Saudi authorities involved in organizing the hajj was to blame for the stampede.
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.
This year also marked the first hajj overseen by King Salman, who holds the title of “custodian of the two holy mosques,” which gives the monarchy great religious clout and prestige in the Muslim world.
But even before the hajj began, disaster struck Mecca as a tower construction crane crashed into the Grand Mosque on Sept. 11, killing at least 111 people.
Countries continue to count their dead from the Mina 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.
Gambrell reported from Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Associated Press writers Aya Batrawy in Mecca, Saudi Arabia; Katy Daigle in New Delhi; Lekan Oyekanmi in Lagos, Nigeria; Nasser Karimi in Tehran, Iran; and Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations contributed to this report.