Muslims start Hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia amid tightened security

The annual Muslim Hajj pilgrimage started on Saturday in Saudi Arabia amid increased security measures - such as GPS bracelets - to avoid the recurrence of last year’s stampede which killed many hundreds of people.

Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims, clad in seamless cloth, have since dawn been leaving the Saudi holy city of Mecca for the nearby plain of Mina, marking the beginning of the Hajj.

They are to spend the night there.

At sunrise on Sunday, they will head for the Mount Arafat, around 20 kilometres east of Mecca, for a congregation that marks the climax of the Hajj.

Around 1.3 million Muslims have arrived in Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam, from at least 160 countries for this year’s pilgrimage, according to Saudi official figures.

An additional 102,000 domestic pilgrims attend the event.

Saudi authorities have stepped up security for the five-day pilgrimage to tightly control the crowd.

The measures include the installation of hundreds of surveillance cameras in the holy sites.

Digital bracelets have also been issued to the pilgrims to help identify and guide them in the congestion. The bracelets are linked to a GPS location system.

In the 2015 Hajj, 769 pilgrims died in a stampede during the symbolic stone-throwing ritual in Mina, according to Saudi official figures.

A dpa tally and other independent reports, however, indicated that around 2,000 pilgrims died in the incident, making it the worst Hajj tragedy on record.

Muslims are expected to perform the pilgrimage at least once in their lifetime provided they are fit enough and have the financial means to do so.

Last update: Sat, 10/09/2016 - 11:42
Author: 

More from World

Iraqi forces seize control of eastern Mosul, prime minister says

Iraqi forces have taken full control of the eastern side of Mosul, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced Tuesday...

Trump signs order to advance controversial US pipelines

US President Donald Trump signed orders Tuesday to advance construction of the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada into...

Mexico draws 'red lines' for negotiations with the US

US President Donald Trump's call for a border wall and any significant watering down of the North America Free Trade...

Jihadist fighters assault rival rebels' bases in northern Syria

A powerful Syrian armed group linked to al-Qaeda launched a series of assaults Tuesday on bases of a rival rebel...

Trump meets with US carmakers to push for jobs

US President Donald Trump met with US carmakers Tuesday, part of his effort to pressure the manufacturers to build...