Sat, 22 Feb 2003

266 haj stranded in Mecca

JAKARTA: At least 266 Indonesian haj are stranded in Saudi Arabia and cannot return home as they have no airline tickets, a government official said on Friday.

Wardani Muchsin, head of the Indonesian haj office in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, said that 139 of the haj had been sent there by PT Tajak Ekspress and the remaining 127 by PT Valdatama Angga Prima, two travel bureaus authorized to organize special haj trips, known as ONH plus.

It was not clear whether the two travel bureaus are based in Jakarta.

According to Wardani, the haj are from Kalimantan, East Java, West Java and Jakarta.

He said his office was trying to establish whether the two travel bureaus had the tickets or had issued bank guarantees amounting to US$550 per haj as required.

"If they have, then the funds can be used to buy tickets for the haj to go home," said Wardani, without mentioning how the haj would be brought home if the two travel bureaus have not issued a bank guarantee in the name of the Ministry of Religious Affairs. --Antara