Pilgrims perform final Hajj rites

Saudis declare annual pilgrimage free from tragedies that have marred it in the past.

    Pilgrims headed back to Mecca's Grand Mosque
    on Monday for the last time [Reuters]

    "The organisation has been great," said Sayed Yousef, an Indian pilgrim, sitting on top of a van amid severe traffic congestion on the final day of Hajj.

     

    "I was here two years ago, but this time there was more free food and less hassle."
      

    No violations

       

    Authorities congratulated themselves that the Hajj rites had passed off without incident despite a surge of pilgrims at the bridge in the rush to finish and leave.

       

    "There have been no security violations at all at the Jamarat area," Prince Nayef, the interior minister, said, praising Saudi clerics for offering pilgrims clear advice to pace the stoning throughout the day.

        

    It was on the final day of the last Hajj that 362 pilgrims were crushed to death during the stone-throwing ritual in the worst Hajj tragedy in 16 years.

       

    New construction work completed in recent months allows 250,000 pilgrims to pass over the Jamarat Bridge each hour. Saudi authorities were also bolder than normal in removing pilgrim squatters who set up makeshift tents in the area.

       

    Tight security

     

    Saudi Arabia regularly deploys more than 50,000 security men to safeguard Hajj against trouble-makers and try to prevent disasters.

       

    Security was already tight during this pilgrimage season - with apparent record numbers - because of sectarian strife between Sunni and Shia Muslims in Iraq.

       

    Saudi officials say 2.4 million pilgrims are officially on the Hajj. But with hundreds of thousands of residents and expatriates sneaking into Mecca without official permits, the total number could be closer to a record three million.

       

    Pilgrims, mostly on foot, cover a 44km route around Mecca during the gruelling rites, as well as walk some 15km in at least three visits to the city's vast mosque complex.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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