12:00 AM, October 12, 2015 / LAST MODIFIED: 02:36 AM, October 12, 2015

Mina Stampede

Dhaka in dark about handover of bodies

Seventeen days have passed since the deadly Hajj stampede but Saudi Arabia has still kept Dhaka in the dark on handing over of the bodies of Bangladeshi victims.

"The Saudi government hasn't yet said anything on whether they will send back the bodies of our hajis or not," Religious Affairs Secretary Chowdhury Md Babul Hassan said.

"We have no information if families of the victims will get back the bodies at all," he told reporters at his secretariat office yesterday.

He heavily criticised the Saudis for their "rigidity" in sharing information on the casualties.

"The Bangladesh Hajj mission there is not allowed to collect any information without their permission."

Babul advised the victims' families to contact the foreign ministry which will deal with the matter.

The secretary also came down heavily upon the Saudi government for its "disrespectful handling" of the bodies after the September 24 incident at Mina.

"The way the Saudi security officials removed the bodies from the site seemed as if they were dumping garbage.

"The stampede has laid bare the Saudi authorities' mismanagements," he said.

Asked if the Saudi government will compensate the victims, Babul said he had no information on this either.

At least 79 Bangladeshis were killed in the stampede and 70 others are missing. "The death toll may rise," he said.

Another 129 Hajj pilgrims from Bangladesh -- 105 men and 24 women -- died of natural causes this year, the secretary added.

The Saudi government claims a total of 769 people died and 934 injured in the stampede.

However, many countries that sent pilgrims to this year's Hajj estimated the number of deaths in stampede alone at more than 1,000.

News agency Associated Press claimed that at least 1,453 people died in the incident, making it the deadliest event to ever strike the annual pilgrimage.

The AP count, based on statements and officials' comments from 19 countries, is 684 higher than what the Kingdom claims it to be.

The Saudi government hasn't yet returned bodies to any countries except Iran. They returned 104 bodies on October 3 after Iran threatened "fierce" actions if the bodies were not handed over.