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Saudi Arabia downplaying death toll in stampede, say officials

Saudi Arabia downplaying death toll in stampede, say officials
September 29
17:43 2015

Officials from several countries have claimed that more than 1,000 people died in last week’s stampede at the annual hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia.

Though the Saudi authorities had pegged the death toll at 769, confusion began after Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj tweeted on Sunday that the Saudi authorities had released photos of 1,090 pilgrims who died.

Pakistani and Indonesian officials also indicated that they have been sent more than 1,000 such images.

Abba Yakubu, a Nigerian official, told the BBC that more than 1,000 bodies had been taken from the disaster site to morgues in the city of Jeddah.

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Yakubu said he had been to Jeddah where he claimed 1,075 bodies had been offloaded from 10 trucks, while four trucks had not been attended to.

But the Saudi officials have denied the claims, saying the photos that people who are making the allegations are relying on, include unidentified people who died at the hajj – not just in the stampede.

Mansour al-Turki, spokesman of the country,  told the Associated Press that some were foreign nationals who lived in Saudi Arabia and carried out the hajj without the required permits.

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Others were said to be among the 109 people who were killed when a crane collapsed at the Grand Mosque in Mecca on 11 September.

A top religious leader in the country said the stampede, the worst disaster in a quarter-century to strike the annual event, was beyond human control.

With about 228 deaths so far, Iran has the highest number of causalities from the incident. As at Tuesday, the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) confirmed  that 64 Nigerians had died in the disaster.

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