Muslim pilgrims threw stones at symbols of the devil on Friday, the second day of a Hajj ritual.

 

Last year, 251 people were crushed at Mina's Jamarat Bridge, the site where pilgrims stood to perform a sacred rite meant as an act of purification and rejection of temptation.

 

The Saudi authorities, facing a storm of criticism, revamped the Jamarat area, adding more exits and deploying thousands of security forces to control the crowd.

 

They also replaced the three pillars the pilgrims stone with thick walls providing a larger target to prevent the crush that normally occurs at the site.

 

Improved safety

 

"Praise be to God, this has been excellent," said Saudi pilgrim Khalid al-Najashi, speaking at the spot where the devil is said to have appeared to the biblical patriarch Ibrahim.

 

Most pilgrims will finish by Friday - the penultimate day of the Hajj - and then go to Makka to circle the Kaaba, which symbolises the house of God, for the final time.

 

"Thank God, we have not witnessed anything unusual or any accidents or deaths so far during the stoning," Brigadier Mansur al-Turki said. "We hope the improvements will continue to keep the pilgrims safe."

 

The Hajj was first performed by Prophet Muhammad more than 1400 years ago.