With oil prices slumping, OPEC+ producers weigh more production cuts
The major oil-producing countries led by Saudi Arabia and Russia are wrestling with whether to make another cut in supply to the global economy as the OPEC+ alliance struggles to prop up sagging oil prices that have been a boon to U.S. drivers and helped ease inflation worldwide. The 23-member group is meeting Sunday at OPEC headquarters in Vienna after sending mixed signals about possible moves. Saudi Arabia, dominant among the oil cartel's members, has warned speculators that they might get burned by betting on lower prices. Russia, the leader of the non-OPEC allies, has indicated no change to output is expected. The decision comes amid uncertainty about when the slow-growing global economy will regain its thirst for fuel for travel and industry, and with producers counting on oil profits to bolster their coffers. Oil prices have fallen even after OPEC+ slashed 2 million barrels per day in October, angering U.S. President Joe Biden by threatening higher gasoline prices a month before the midterm elections. Then, several OPEC members led by the Saudis made a surprise cut of 1.16 million barrels a day in April. International benchmark Brent crude climbed as high as $87 per barrel but has given up its post-cut gains and been loitering below $75 per barrel in recent days. U.S. crude has dipped below $70. Those lower prices have helped U.S. drivers as the summer travel season kicks off, with prices at the pump averaging $3.55, down $1.02 from a year ago, according to auto club AAA. Falling energy prices also helped inflation in the 20 European countries that use the euro drop to the lowest level since before Russia invaded Ukraine. The U.S. recently replenished its Strategic Petroleum Reserve — after Biden announced the largest release from the national reserve in American history last year — in an indicator that U.S. officials may be less worried about OPEC cuts than in months past. The Saudis, on the other hand, need sustained high oil revenue to fund ambitious development projects aimed at diversifying the country's economy. The International Monetary Fund estimates the kingdom needs $80.90 per barrel to meet its envisioned spending commitments, which include a planned $500 billion futuristic desert city project called Neom. That may have been one motivation behind Energy Minister Abdulaziz bin Salman's warning to speculators that they will be "ouching" if they keep betting on lower oil prices. Bin Salman's pointed comment isn't necessarily a prelude to a cut at Sunday's meeting, said James Swanston, Middle East and North Africa economist at Capital Economics. "Our expectation is that OPEC+ will stick with current output quotas," he said, adding that "there have been signs that the government may be readying to live with lower oil prices and running budget deficits." On top of that, Russia may find current prices to its liking because its oil is finding eager new customers in India, China and Turkey. Western sanctions over the war in Ukraine have forced Russian oil to sell at discounts of around $53 to $57 per barrel. At those prices, Moscow's shipments avoid triggering the $60 price cap imposed by the Group of Seven major democracies to try to limit oil profits flowing into Russia's war chest. The price ceiling allows the world's No. 3 oil producer to keep supplying non-Western customers to avoid a global shortage that would drive up prices for everyone. Insurers and shipping companies largely based in Western countries are barred from handling Russian oil if it is priced above the cap. Russia has found ways to evade the limits through "dark fleet" tankers, which tamper with transponders showing their locations or transfer oil from ship to ship to disguise its origin. An OPEC+ "production cut could push the price of Russian oil above the G7 price cap of $60 per barrel, which would make it difficult to transport and thus to sell the oil," commodity analyst Carsten Fritsch at Commerzbank wrote in a research note. "Russia appears to be doing good business at the current price level." The International Energy Agency said in its April oil market report that Russia has not completely followed through on its announcement to extend a voluntary cut of 500,000 barrels per day through the end of the year. In fact, Russia's total exports of oil and refined products such as diesel fuel rose in April to a post-invasion high of 8.3 million barrels per day. That is in spite of a near-total boycott from the European Union, formerly Russia's biggest customer. Analysts say OPEC+ faces conflicting pressures. A cut could support prices or send them higher, with demand expected to pick up later this year. "The impact of higher oil prices on the global economy will weigh heavily on the ministers' minds," said Jorge Leon, senior vice president of oil market research at Rystad Energy. "High oil prices would fuel inflation in the West right when central banks are starting to see inflation gradually recede." "This could prompt central banks to continue increasing interest rates, a detrimental move for the global economy and oil demand," Leon wrote in a research note.
US, Saudi Arabia call for warring sides in Sudan to extend ‘imperfect’ cease-fire
The United States and Saudi Arabia called on warring sides in Sudan to extend a cease-fire due to expire Monday. The Sudanese army and a rival paramilitary force, battling for control of Sudan since mid-April, had agreed last week to the weeklong truce, brokered by the U.S. and the Saudis. However, the cease-fire, like others before it, did not stop the fighting in the capital of Khartoum and elsewhere in the country. In a joint statement early Sunday, the U.S. and Saudi Arabia called for an extension of the current truce which expires at 9:45 p.m. local time Monday. "While imperfect, an extension nonetheless will facilitate the delivery of urgently needed humanitarian assistance to the Sudanese people," the statement said. The statement also urged Sudan's military government and the rival Rapid Support Forces to continue negotiations. The fighting broke out in mid-April between the military and the powerful RSF. Both military chief Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan and RSF leader Gen. Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo led the 2021 coup that removed the Western-backed government of Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok. The fighting turned Khartoum and the adjacent city of Omdurman into a battleground. The clashes also spread elsewhere in the country, including the war-wracked Darfur region. The conflict has killed hundreds of people, wounded thousands and pushed the country to near collapse. It forced more than 1.3 million out of their homes to safer areas inside Sudan, or to neighboring nations. Residents reported renewed sporadic clashes Sunday in parts of Omdurman, where the army's aircraft were seen flying over the city. Fighting was also reported in al-Fasher, the provincial capital of North Darfur. The U.S.-Saudi statement came two days after Burhan demanded in a letter to the U.N. secretary-general that the U.N. envoy to his country be removed, The U.N. chief was "shocked" by the letter, a spokesman said. The envoy, Volker Perthes, has been a key mediator in Sudan, first during the country's fitful attempts to transition to democracy and then during efforts to end the current fighting. Burhan's letter came after Perthes accused the warring parties of disregarding the laws of war by attacking homes, shops, places of worship and water and electricity installations. In his briefing to the U.N. Security Council last week, Perthes blamed the leaders of the military and the RSF for the war, saying that they have chosen to "settle their unresolved conflict on the battlefield rather than at the table."
SpaceX sends Saudi astronauts, including nation’s 1st woman in space, to International Space Station
Saudi Arabia's first astronauts in decades rocketed toward the International Space Station on a chartered multimillion-dollar flight Sunday. SpaceX launched the ticket-holding crew, led by a retired NASA astronaut now working for the company that arranged the trip from Kennedy Space Center. Also on board: a U.S. businessman who now owns a sports car racing team. The four should reach the space station in their capsule Monday morning; they'll spend just over a week there before returning home with a splashdown off the Florida coast. Sponsored by the Saudi Arabian government, Rayyanah Barnawi, a stem cell researcher, became the first woman from the kingdom to go to space. She was joined by Ali al-Qarni, a fighter pilot with the Royal Saudi Air Force. Also Read: UAE spacecraft takes close-up photos of Mars' little moon They're the first from their country to ride a rocket since a Saudi prince launched aboard shuttle Discovery in 1985. In a quirk of timing, they'll be greeted at the station by an astronaut from the United Arab Emirates. "Hello from outer space! It feels amazing to be viewing Earth from this capsule," Barnawi said after settling into orbit. Added al-Qarni: "As I look outside into space, I can't help but think this is just the beginning of a great journey for all of us." Rounding out the visiting crew: Knoxville, Tennessee's John Shoffner, former driver and owner of a sports car racing team that competes in Europe, and chaperone Peggy Whitson, the station's first female commander who holds the U.S. record for most accumulated time in space: 665 days and counting. Also Read: SpaceX takes second shot at launching biggest rocket "It was a phenomenal ride," Whitson said after reaching orbit. Her crewmates clapped their hands in joy. It's the second private flight to the space station organized by Houston-based Axiom Space. The first was last year by three businessmen, with another retired NASA astronaut. The company plans to start adding its own rooms to the station in another few years, eventually removing them to form a stand-alone outpost available for hire. Axiom won't say how much Shoffner and Saudi Arabia are paying for the planned 10-day mission. The company had previously cited a ticket price of $55 million each. NASA's latest price list shows per-person, per-day charges of $2,000 for food and up to $1,500 for sleeping bags and other gear. Need to get your stuff to the space station in advance? Figure roughly $10,000 per pound ($20,000 per kilogram), the same fee for trashing it afterward. Need your items back intact? Double the price. At least the email and video links are free. The guests will have access to most of the station as they conduct experiments, photograph Earth and chat with schoolchildren back home, demonstrating how kites fly in space when attached to a fan. After decades of shunning space tourism, NASA now embraces it with two private missions planned a year. The Russian Space Agency has been doing it, off and on, for decades. "Our job is to expand what we do in low-Earth orbit across the globe," said NASA's space station program manager Joel Montalbano. SpaceX's first-stage booster landed back at Cape Canaveral eight minutes after liftoff — a special treat for the launch day crowd, which included about 60 Saudis. "It was a very, very exciting day," said Axiom's Matt Ondler.
Bangladesh’s relation with Saudi Arabia is very good: President Shahabuddin
Saudi Arabian Ambassador in Dhaka Essa Yousef Essa Alduhailan on Sunday paid a courtesy call on President Mohammed Shahabuddin at Bangabhaban. President's press secretary Md Joynal Abedin briefed the reporters after the meeting. The president described Bangladesh's relationship with Saudi Arabia is very good and important. Shahabuddin thanked the Saudi government for facilitating the hajj process for Bangladeshis and launching e-visa. Also read: First hajj flight carrying 415 pilgrims leaves Dhaka for Saudi Arabia Noting that Saudi Arabia is the biggest destination for the export of Bangladesh's manpower, President Shahabuddin said Bangladeshi expatriates in Saudi Arabia are playing an important role in the economic development of both countries. The president put emphasis on increasing mutual communication and visit-exchange both at public and private levels to enhance trade investment between the two countries. The Saudi ambassador said Saudi investments in different sectors, including electricity and energy, are also increasing gradually along with strengthening relations with Bangladesh. After Kuwait, Bangladesh is the second country, where mobile Umrah Visa has been implemented, he added. Also Read: Syria, Saudi Arabia move toward restoring embassies, flights The envoy also said many big companies in Saudi Arabia are showing interest in investing in Bangladesh. President's Office Secretary Sampad Barua, President's Military Secretary Major General SM Salahuddin Islam were also present during the meeting.
First hajj flight carrying 415 pilgrims leaves Dhaka for Saudi Arabia
An aircraft of Biman Bangladesh Airlines carrying 415 hajj pilgrims left Dhaka today (May 21, 2023) for Saudi Arabia -- the first hajj flight this year. The flight BG-3001 took off from Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport in Dhaka at 3:20 am and was scheduled to land in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia at 7:20 am (local time). Four more flights of Biman Bangladesh Airlines are scheduled to depart Dhaka with hajj pilgrims for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) today. State Minister for Civil Aviation and Tourism Md Mahbub Ali, State Minister for Religion Md Faridul Haque Khan, lawmaker Habib Hasan, Biman Governing Council Chairman Mustafa Kamal Uddin, and KSA Ambassador to Bangladesh Issa Bin Youssef Al-Dahilan, among others, saw off the hajj pilgrims at Dhaka airport. Read more: PM inaugurates Hajj programme-2023 Earlier, at an event organized to mark the first hajj flight, at the airport, State Minister Mahbub sought prayers from the pilgrims for happiness, peace, prosperity, and advancement of the country under the leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. He said all-out preparations have been taken to ensure the smooth operation of hajj flights like the past years. This year, Biman Bangladesh Airlines authorities will carry 61,111 hajj pilgrims out of total 1, 22,221 with its five aircraft. The rest will be carried by the Saudia and Flynas. Lauding the prime minister’s diplomatic success, the state minister said the immigration of the hajj passengers at the KSA end is being completed in Dhaka under the ‘Road to Makkah Initiative’. He said several initiatives were taken to ease sufferings of the pilgrims and no passenger has been subjected to harassment for booking tickets after initiating a new rule and enhanced monitoring since 2019. The Biman authorities concerned will conduct 162 pre-hajj flights from May 21 to June 22, and 168 post-hajj flights from July 2 to August 3 this year. Like last year, Biman will operate flights from Chattogram and Sylhet to Jeddah and Madinah along with Dhaka this year. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina inaugurated the hajj programme on May 19. Read more: Pray that Bangladesh is safe from man-made or natural disasters: PM to Hajj pilgrims
Eid-ul-Fitr being celebrated in Dinajpur, Chandpur and Lalmonirhat in line with Saudi
The holy Eid-ul-Fitr, the largest Muslim religious festival, is being celebrated in some upazilas of Dinajpur and Lalmonirhat districts amid religious fervour in line with Saudi Arabia on Friday. The early celebration comes a day before the nationwide celebration of Eid in Bangladesh on Saturday. Our Dinajpur Correspondent adds: the Eid-ul-Fitr prayers were held in Sadar, Chirirbandar, Biral, Kaharole, Birampur upazilas of the district in participation with several thousands of Muslim devotees in the morning. Members of some 300 Muslim families in the Sadar upazila offered their Eid prayer conducted by Biral upazila’s Maheshpur Madrasa Director Abdur Razzak at 7:45am. Moreover, Muslim devotees in Saitara Rubber Dam of Chirirbandar, Kamdevpur and Kazipara of Biral, Bhabanipur of Kaharole, Binail and Jotabani of Birampur completed their Eid prayers in the morning. In 2007, some Muslims of the upazilas started fasting and other religious activities keeping consistency with Saudi Arabia. Read more: Muslims in 40 Chandpur villages to celebrate Eid today On the other hand, Lalmonirhat Correspondent also adds: over 500 Muslims attended the Eid-ul-fitr prayer conducted by Maulana Abdul Majed at Munsipara Jame Masjid in Kaliganj upazila of the district at 9:15am. Maulana Masum Billah, president of Munsipara Eidgaon Math, said they have been performing religious activities including Eid-ul-Fitr and Azha in line with Saudi Arabia with the belief that the Eid will be held on the same day across the world. “Similarly we offered the Eid-ul-Fitr prayer in participation with over 500 Muslims as the moon was sighted in Saudi Arabia,” he said. ATM Golam Rasul, officer-in-charge of Kaliganj police station, said police patrolled in Kakina, Tusbhandar and Chandrapur unions to ensure security of the Muslims who offered the Eid prayer keeping consistency with Saudi Arabia. Residents of 40 villages in Chandpur district are also celebrating Eid-ul-Fitr today amid much enthusiasm and religious fervour. Two separate Eid jamaats were held at Shadra Darbar Sharif Maidan at 9am and Shadra Hamidia Fazil Madrasa Eidgah at 10am on Friday. Eid-ul-Fitr prayers were held in Bolakhal, Olipur, Barakul, Shameshpur, Jakni, Ramchandrapur, Sreepur, Belcho, Rajargaon under Hajiganj upazila; Shachanmegh, Bigha, Ubharampur, Bajpara, Khila, Ottali, Balithuba, Shola, Rupsha, Goalbaor, Noahat, Bashara, Telishair, Paunsair, Kamata, Surangachaul, Paikpara, Mulpara, Munsirhat, Bholacho, Kaitara under Faridganj upazila; Aswinpur, Nayergaon, Panchani, Dashani, Mohanpur, Ekhlaspur and Beltali under Matlab upazila.
Syria, Saudi Arabia move toward restoring embassies, flights
Syria and Saudi Arabia are moving toward reopening embassies and resuming flights between the two countries for the first time in more than a decade, the countries said Thursday in a joint statement. The announcement followed a visit by Syria's top diplomat to the kingdom, the first since Saudi Arabia cut off diplomatic relations with Syria in 2012. Syria was widely shunned by Arab governments over Syrian President Bashar Assad’s brutal crackdown on protester,s and later civilians, in an uprising turned civil war that began in 2011. The breakdown in relations culminated with Syria being ousted from the Arab League. However, in recent years, as Assad has consolidated control over most of the country, Syria's neighbors have begun to take steps toward rapprochement. The overtures have picked up pace since the massive Feb. 6 earthquake in Turkey and Syria, and the Chinese-brokered reestablishment of ties between Saudi Arabia and Iran, regional rivals that had backed opposing sides in the Syrian conflict. A delegation headed by Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Mikdad, at the invitation of Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud arrived in Saudi Arabia on Wednesday for talks about bilateral relations between the two countries, state media from the two countries reported. Saudi state media reported that Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Mikdad was received by the kingdom’s Deputy Foreign Minister Waleed Al-Khuraiji. The meeting focused on the steps needed to reach a “comprehensive political settlement of the Syrian crisis that would ... achieve national reconciliation, and contribute to the return of Syria to its Arab fold," the two countries said in a joint statement. Saudi Arabia is hosting the next Arab League summit in May, where a restoration of Syria's membership is widely expected to be on the table. The two sides also discussed “the importance of enhancing security and combating terrorism in all its forms, and enhancing cooperation in combating drug smuggling and trafficking,” the statement said. Syria is a primary producer of the amphetamine-based drug Captagon, which is largely smuggled into Gulf markets for sale. The talks also focused on “the need to support ... the Syrian state to extend its control over its territories to end the presence of armed militias and external interference in the Syrian internal affairs,” as well as on facilitating the delivery of humanitarian aid and the return of Syrian refugees. The visit to Saudi Arabia came after Syria announced Wednesday that it will reopen its embassy in Tunisia, which cut off relations in 2012. Tunisian President Kais Saied announced earlier this month that he had directed the country’s foreign ministry to appoint a new ambassador to Syria. His move was reciprocated by the Syrian government, a joint statement from the two countries’ foreign ministries said Wednesday, according to Syrian state news agency SANA.
Saudi Arabia’s Etidal finds 6mn extremist content on Telegram between Jan and Mar 2023
The Saudi Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology (Etidal) found 6,004,218 extremist content on the social media platform Telegram between January 1 and March 30 this year. Furthermore, the two platforms have assisted in the closure of 1,840 channels that disseminate and promote extremist ideology and are affiliated with three terrorist groups (ISIS [Daesh], Al-Qaeda and Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham), reports Saudi Gazette. Read More: Never flagged as a danger, Nice attacker traveled unimpeded The Etidal team identified and monitored the three terrorist organizations' activity on Telegram in Arabic, it said. It discovered 2,773,902 pieces with extremist content on 477 Hayat Tahrir al-Sham channels, 1,807,215 such pieces on 1,040 Daesh channels, and 1,423,101 pieces on 323 Al-Qaeda channels. The Etidal monitoring team observed a peak in broadcasting activity on Telegram on January 9 this year, with 451,911 pieces of content shared and referenced to, and a peak in account creation on March 27, with over 101 channels launched in a single day, the report also said. Read More: Shamima Begum who joined ISIS as a teen loses UK citizenship appeal The cooperation between Etidal and Telegram continues for the second year in a row, increasing the total number of items deleted from February 2022 until now to 21,026,169; these included extremist content and 8,664 terminated terrorist channels.
Saudis, other oil giants announce surprise production cuts; prices could go up
Saudi Arabia and other major oil producers on Sunday announced surprise cuts totaling up to 1.15 million barrels per day from May until the end of the year, a move that could raise prices worldwide. Higher oil prices would help fill Russian President Vladimir Putin's coffers as his country wages war on Ukraine and force Americans and others to pay even more at the pump amid worldwide inflation. It was also likely to further strain ties with the United States, which has called on Saudi Arabia and other allies to increase production as it tries to bring prices down and squeeze Russia's finances. The production cuts alone could push U.S. gasoline prices up by roughly 26 cents per gallon, in addition to the usual increase that comes when refineries change the gasoline blend during the summer driving season, said Kevin Book, managing director of Clearview Energy Partners LLC. The Energy Department calculates the seasonal increase at an average of 32 cents per gallon, Book said. So with an average U.S. price now at roughly $3.50 per gallon of regular, according to AAA, that could mean gasoline over $4 per gallon during the summer. However, Book said there are a number of complex variables in oil and gas prices. The size of each country's production cut depends on the baseline production number it is using, so the cut might not be 1.15 million. It also could take much of the year for the cuts to take effect. Demand could fall if the U.S. enters a recession caused by the banking crisis. But it also could increase during the summer as more people travel. Even though the production cut is only about 1% of the roughly 100 million barrels of oil the world uses per day, the impact on prices could be big, Book said. Also Read: As Biden weighs Willow, he blocks other Alaska oil drilling “It's a big deal because of the way oil prices work,” he said. “You are in a market that is relatively balanced. You take a small amount away, depending on what demand does, you could have a very significant price response.” Saudi Arabia announced the biggest cut among OPEC members at 500,000 barrels per day. The cuts are in addition to a reduction announced last October that infuriated the Biden administration. The Saudi Energy Ministry described the move as a “precautionary measure” aimed at stabilizing the oil market. The cuts represent less than 5% of Saudi Arabia's average production of 11.5 million barrels per day in 2022. Also Read: Oil giant Saudi Aramco has profits of $161B in 2022 Iraq said it would reduce production by 211,000 barrels per day, the United Arab Emirates by 144,000, Kuwait by 128,000, Kazakhstan by 78,000, Algeria by 48,000 and Oman by 40,000. The announcements were carried by each country's state media. Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak meanwhile said Moscow would extend a voluntary cut of 500,000 until the end of the year, according to remarks carried by the state news agency Tass. Russia had announced the unilateral reduction in February after Western countries imposed price caps. All are members of the so-called OPEC+ group of oil exporting countries, which includes the original Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries as well as Russia and other major producers. There was no immediate statement from OPEC itself. The cuts announced in October — of some 2 million barrels a day — had come on the eve of U.S. midterm elections in which soaring prices were a major issue. President Joe Biden vowed at the time that there would be “consequences” and Democratic lawmakers called for freezing cooperation with the Saudis. Both the U.S. and Saudi Arabia denied any political motives in the dispute. Since those cuts, oil prices have trended down. Brent crude, a global benchmark, was trading around $80 a barrel at the end of last week, down from around $95 in early October, when the earlier cuts were agreed. Analysts Giacomo Romeo and Lloyd Byrne at Jefferies said in a research note that the new cuts should allow for “material” reductions to OPEC inventory earlier than expected and could validate recent warnings from some traders and analysts that demand for oil is weakening. Kristian Coates Ulrichsen, a Gulf expert at Rice University's Baker Institute for Public Policy, said the Saudis are determined to keep oil prices high enough to fund ambitious mega-projects linked to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's Vision 2030 plan to overhaul the economy. “This domestic interest takes precedence in Saudi decision-making over relationships with international partners and is likely to remain a point of friction in U.S.-Saudi relations for the foreseeable future,” he said. Saudi Arabia's state-run oil giant Aramco recently announced record profits of $161 billion from last year. Profits rose 46.5% when compared to the company’s 2021 results of $110 billion. Aramco said it hoped to boost production to 13 million barrels a day by 2027. The decades-long U.S.-Saudi alliance has come under growing strain in recent years following the 2018 killing of Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi, a U.S.-based journalist, and Saudi Arabia's war with the Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen. As a candidate for president, Biden had vowed to make Saudi Arabia a “pariah” over the Khashoggi killing, but as oil prices rose after his inauguration he backed off. He visited the kingdom last July in a bid to patch up relations, drawing criticism for sharing a fistbump with Crown Prince Mohammed. Saudi Arabia has denied siding with Russia in the Ukraine war, even as it has cultivated closer ties with both Moscow and Beijing in recent years. Last week, Aramco announced billions of dollars of investment in China's downstream petrochemicals industry.
Death toll of Bangladeshi pilgrims who died in Saudi bus accident rises to 18
At least 18 Bangladeshi pilgrims were killed and 16 others were injured in an accident that killed 24 omrah hajj pilgrims and injured around 23 people in the southwestern region of Saudi Arabia on Monday, said a Foreign Ministry official on Wednesday. The deceased were identified as Shahidul Islam, son of Shariat Ulla in Senbagh from Noakhali district, Mamun Mia, son of Abdul Awal and Russel Molla of Muradnagar in Cumilla district, Mohammad Helal of Noakhali district, Sabuj Hossain of Laxmipur district, Md Asif and Shafatul Islam of Maheshkhali in Cox’s Bazar district, Md Imam Hossain Rony, son of Abdul Latif in Gazipur district, Ruk Mia, son of Kalu Mia of Chandpur district, Gias Hamid of Debidwar in Cumilla district, Mohammad Nazrul Islam, son of Kawsar Mia and Rony, son of Iskandar of Jashore district and Mohammad Hossain of Cox’s Bazar district, Ruhul Amin, Khairul Islam, Tushar Mazumder, Miraz Hossain, Sakib, son of Abdul Awal and Rana Mia. Previously it was confirmed that 13 Bangladeshis were killed. Later another five Bangladeshi nationals have been identified among the 24 omrah pilgrims who died in the crash, according to information provided by the foreign ministry. At least 16 Bangladeshi nationals are receiving medical treatments in four different hospitals across the country. The bus was carrying 47 omrah hajj pilgrims to Makkah and among them thirty-five passengers were Bangladeshi nationals. The accident occurred in Saudi Arabia’s Asir province - around 650 km away from Jeddah - at around 4:00 PM on Monday. According to media reports, the bus collided with a bridge following a brake failure, overturned and burst into flames. Hospital authorities said that it is very difficult to determine the nationality due to the burning and disfiguring of the bodies. Two officers of the Bangladesh Consulate General, Jeddah visited the area immediately after the incident and are trying to identify the victims and contact their family members in Bangladesh, according to a press release sent from Bangladesh Consulate General in Jeddah. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs extended its heartfelt condolences to the relatives of those who have lost their lives in this tragic accident and remains connected with the wounded and hospitalized and is working for the early repatriation of the dead. Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen on Wednesday said the number of Bangladeshi nationals who died in the crash could rise as many of the wounded -- who are receiving medical treatment in different hospitals across the country -- are in critical condition. He hoped that the bodies of the Bangladeshi nationals would be returned as soon as possible. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Tuesday expressed deep shock and sorrow at the horrific bus crash that killed around 24 omrah hajj pilgrims and injured around 23 people in the southwestern region of Saudi Arabia on Monday. In a condolence message, she prayed for the eternal salvation of the departed souls and quick recovery of the injured persons. She asked the Foreign Ministry officials and the Saudi Mission personnel to take necessary actions for recovering the bodies of Bangladeshi nationals and ensure proper treatment for the injured.