1.4 million pilgrims arrive in Saudi

About 1.4 million foreign pilgrims have arrived in Saudi Arabia to take part in the annual hajj rituals starting on Friday.

    The hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam

    The kingdom's immigration chief Abd al-Aziz bin Jamil Sajini was quoted by the official SPA news agency as saying that "1.39 million Muslims coming from overseas have arrived in the kingdom since Tuesday evening." 

    He said 1.22 million had arrived by air, 140,633 had come by land and 23,657 by sea. 

    Sajini did not say if more pilgrims were expected in Saudi Arabia which has stopped allowing their entry by air since Tuesday night. 

    In 2003 an all-time record of 1.431 million Muslims arrived in the kingdom from more than 170 countries to perform the pilgrimage, according to official figures at the time. 

    Security measures

    Interior Minister Prince Nayif bin Abd al-Aziz dismissed on Tuesday talks that the stepped up security in the kingdom this year after two suicide bombs last year that killed 52 may be keeping some foreign pilgrims out. 

    "We have not taken any security measure... that could reduce the number of pilgrims, who are welcome to come from anywhere," he told a press conference on Tuesday night in Mina near Makka. 

    The hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam and is a duty of all able-bodied and financially capable Muslims to perform it.



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