Indonesian forensic experts head to Saudi Arabia to help identify haj disaster victims

Teams of Indonesian forensic experts, headed by a colonel from Indonesia's Kopassus special forces, are in Saudi Arabia to help identify those still missing.
Teams of Indonesian forensic experts, headed by a colonel from Indonesia's Kopassus special forces, are in Saudi Arabia to help identify those still missing.PHOTO: EPA

RIYADH (AFP) - Indonesian forensic experts are in Saudi Arabia to help identify those still missing from the country which suffered one of the heaviest losses in last month's haj disaster, an official said on Tuesday (Oct 6).

Mr Arsyad Hidayat, the senior Indonesian official in Mecca, told AFP that 11 specialists had arrived three days ago from police headquarters in his country, the world's largest Muslim-populated nation.

"They have special capability in forensics," including fingerprint data, he said, adding that Indonesia's death toll has now risen to 103, with 25 still missing.

Iran has reported the largest toll from the Sept 24 disaster, with 464 dead, followed by Egypt at 146.

More than 20 countries around the world have reported a total of 1,112 dead, mostly from official sources, far in excess of the Saudi figure of 769 killed issued after the stampede at Mina, near the holy city of Mecca.

It is unclear whether other countries have sent their own forensic specialists but Saudi Arabia's Al-Madina daily reported last week that 20 teams from the Saudi passports department were visiting Mecca-area hospitals to record fingerprints of the dead and of unidentified injured.

Saudi Arabia's regional rival Iran has repatriated 218 bodies of the 464 people it declared dead in the stampede, while accusing Riyadh of incompetence in its handling of hajj safety.

Tehran has also criticised the slow pace of identifying the victims.

In Indonesia's case, Mr Hidayat said "there have not been meaningful obstacles" encountered by his country's teams of military and police officers.

The teams, headed by a colonel from Indonesia's Kopassus special forces, have been gathering data, checking hospitals and searching for and identifying dead bodies.

"God willing, we are hopefully getting near to the final result," Mr Hidayat said.