Saturday, November 05, 2011

Saudi authorities on the alert at the time of Hajj

Mecca, Saudi Arabia
AFP - More than two million Muslims begin Friday rites of the annual pilgrimage to Mecca, the largest human gathering in the world to Saudi Arabia poses a formidable logistical challenge. "We are mobilizing all possible means to prevent harm (to security) of any pilgrim or a group of pilgrims," ​​said Tuesday the new Crown Prince Nayef bin Abdul Aziz in Mecca, the holy city of the first Islam located in western Saudi kingdom. Prince Nayef, the Interior Minister and Chairman of the High Commission of the pilgrimage, attended a parade of the security forces and civil defense, which mobilize up to 100,000 men to ensure the smooth running of the hajj. Special Forces units, including riot police and the fight against terrorism, supported by helicopters, simulated assistance interventions.

The highlight of the pilgrimage will take place Saturday when the faithful converge on Mount Arafat near Mecca. Eid Al-Adha, the feast of sacrifice marking the end of hajj, will be celebrated Sunday. Safety is the major concern of the Saudis who, wishing the keepers of the first Holy Places of Islam, Mecca and Medina, make sure to avoid any incident that may affect the huge gathering. Especially since the hajj this year coincides with the Arab Spring, who won the leadership of Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. "My joy knows no bounds, is the first time that I make the pilgrimage after the liberation of my country," said Adel Abu Kasseh, a pilgrim Libya. "What happens in some Arab brothers is an internal matter," said Prince Nayef, however, warned that Riyadh would act with determination against any potential problems. "The kingdom is prepared for any situation whatsoever."

The case of an alleged Iranian plot against the Saudi ambassador to Washington, revealed by the United States, is also present in the mind. "The Iranians have always maintained their respect for the hajj," said Prince Nayef. The 97,000 Iranian pilgrims will "focus on Islamic unity," assured the representative of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei for the pilgrimage, Hojatoleslam Ali Asghar Ghazi, hoping a hajj "in the peace and spirituality." The message seems to have been of course. "We do not have problems during the hajj," said Khadija, an Iranian 35. Have consistently opposed violence since the 1979 Islamic revolution, the Iranian pilgrims to Saudi forces accused of turning the pilgrimage political forum against Israel, anti-American and hostile to the Saudi regime.

The most serious clashes had 402 dead, including 275 Iranians, in 1987, causing a break of several years of relations between Riyadh and Tehran. The Mufti of the Kingdom, Sheikh Abdel Aziz al-Sheikh, described as "fishing" any attempt to disturb the hajj for "political reasons". The challenges are logistical, authorities, using their oil wealth, continue to improve over the years the infrastructure in the holy places. A new extension of the Grand Mosque in Mecca, at a cost of $ 10.6 billion, was launched earlier this year to allow the site to accommodate the same time as two million faithful.

A subway opened in 2010 between Mina, Muzdalifah and Mount Arafat 'now runs at full capacity, "said Minister of Municipal Affairs, Prince Mansour bin Mitaab, betting on the modern means of transportation to help ease traffic congestion , a permanent headache during the hajj.

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