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Bodies of Iranian pilgrims who died in Mina crush to be repatriated Tuesday

The bodies of Hajj pilgrims killed in a crush are lying on the ground in Mina, near the holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia, September 24, 2015. (AFP)

The first convoy of the bodies of Iranian Hajj pilgrims who fell victim to a recent deadly crush in Mina, near the holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia, will arrive in the capital Tehran on Tuesday.

A total of 228 Iranians have so far been confirmed dead in the September 24 Mina tragedy, according to Saeed Ohadi, the head of Iran's Hajj and Pilgrimage Organization. The number of wounded Iranian pilgrims stands at 27, with 248 Iranians still unaccounted for.

On Monday, Iran's Deputy Foreign Minister for Arab and African Affairs Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said the bodies of over 700 African pilgrims had been buried in Saudi Arabia, adding, however, that “no decision has been made to bury Iranian victims of the Mina incident in Mecca.”

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani cut short his New York trip and flew home late on Monday to attend the funeral ceremony of the deceased in Tehran. Rouhani had traveled to New York to take part in the 70th Session of the United Nations General Assembly.

During his Monday speech at the UN, the president said, “Thousands of Muslim pilgrims” lost their lives in the Mina disaster due to Saudi authorities' “incompetence and mismanagement.”

Rouhani’s figure of the dead contradicted Saudi Health Ministry’s account, which said some 770 pilgrims had been killed in the incident. Iran’s Hajj and Pilgrimage Organization puts the total number of the dead at more than 3,000.

Referring to the existence of 21 containers full of the victims’ bodies, Ohadi said, “We predict that there are 3,000 to 3,200 bodies in the containers.”

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani addresses the United Nations General Assembly in New York, September 28, 2015. (AFP)

Another sign of discrepancy in the death toll came when two Indian and Pakistani officials said on Monday that Saudi Arabia had given foreign diplomats hundreds of photographs of the dead from the calamity.

Tariq Fazal Chaudhry, a lawmaker from the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz party (PML-N), said Saudi embassies had given diplomats "1,100 photos" of the Mina victims.

"This is the official figure of martyrs from Saudi officials, given for the identification process," Chaudhry stressed.

His remarks resembled those of Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj. "Saudi authorities have released photos of 1,090 pilgrims who have died in [the Hajj] stampede," Swaraj wrote on Twitter on Sunday.

The crush happened as a large crowd of pilgrims were on their way to participate in the symbolic stoning of Satan in Jamarat. Reports indicate that Saudi authorities had blocked a road to Jamarat, forcing another column of pilgrims who had completed the ritual to return via the same route.

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