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Saudi Arabia Deploys over 100,000 Forces for Hajj Security | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Muslim pilgrims perform the Hajj ritual of Jamarat as they throw stones at a pillar representing the devil, Mina, Saudi Arabia, September 24, 2015. (Photo by AP)

Mekkah– Saudi officials confirmed the completion of all security plans to serve about 2 million pilgrims arrived to Saudi Arabia for this year’s Hajj, reiterating that the kingdom respects all Muslims and sees the needs of every pilgrim regardless of the sect.

Speaking at a joint press conference with other officials, Interior ministry spokesman General Mansour al-Turki said that the ministry had prepared all required security plans to serve over 2 million pilgrims.

The officials confirmed that nearly 1.72 million pilgrims have been confirmed to have flown into the kingdom over the past few days with an additional 200,000 pilgrims from inside Saudi Arabia will also take part in the Hajj.

The conference at General Security forces headquarters in Mina was also attended by representatives of the Hajj and Health ministries, Saudi Red Crescent and Civil Defense laid out their plans to ensure a safe pilgrimage.

The pilgrims will make their move toward Mekkah where they will perform the circumambulation of the Holy Kaaba on Wednesday known as the welcoming tawaf.

At the Holy Mosque, they will perform the noon prayers before they head to Mina where they will spend the rest of the day in prayers before heading for Mount Arafat on Thursday, considered the ultimate rite of the Hajj.

Turki said more than 50 percent of the foreign pilgrims have already completed their Madinah visit, while the remaining pilgrims will visit the Holy Mosque after they have completed their Hajj rituals.

“We have taken measures to organize the movement of the crowds in several places where the influx is large,” he said.

Turki also added that security forces had taken all necessary measures to prevent a stampede like the one that killed hundreds of pilgrims in 2015, without providing details. He explained that tens of thousands of cameras recording the rituals will help control the crowds.

Turki stressed the efforts made at the entrance to the holy sites to detect any violations of Hajj regulations. He said more than 400,000 people have been denied entrance for lacking Hajj permits.

A total of 208,236 cars driven by those without the correct permits were turned away, while another 3,296 vehicles were seized at the entrances to Makkah.

General Turki said more than 100,000 security personnel had been deployed at various sites along the hajj route.

At Mina itself, 51,700 Saudi and expat employees will be employed in multiple sectors to serve the pilgrims during their stay at the tent city.

Regarding the Qatari pilgrims, Tukri stressed that the kingdom doesn’t differentiate between pilgrims based on their beliefs. He explained that the mission is to ensure the safe arrival of every pilgrim no matter the nationality or place they are arriving from.

He confirmed that Saudi Arabia respects all Muslims and faiths, however, he urged pilgrims to abide by their assigned schedule for performing the sacred rituals and disregard anything that might affect their religious duties.

Hajj Ministry spokesman Hatim Qadi announced the completion of the first phase of the pilgrim-receiving plan through the entry points in Makkah and Madinah.

He said 19,500 buses transported pilgrims from Madinah to Makkah while another 38,000 buses transported pilgrims from other areas. Pilgrims will later be transported to Mina by 9,000 buses.

He reported that 90 percent of transportation is done by the private sector and about 28 transport companies are operating this year.

Qadi affirmed the readiness of camps in Mina to receive pilgrims and said that both public and private sectors are working to serve the pilgrims.

Also, Civil Defense spokesman Colonel Abdullah al-Harthi said the first phase of the emergency plan of the current Hajj season had been completed without any incident that could have adversely affected the safety of pilgrims.

He said the number of agencies involved in the emergency plan had increased from 19 to 32, with five mock incidents carried out to prepare them.

“The number of agencies taking part in implementing the Civil Defense’s emergency plan has been increased from 19 to 32 this year,” he said, adding that the Civil Defense conducted five drills in Mina, Arafat and Muzdalifah as part of ensuring its operational efficiency.

Health Ministry Spokesman Mishaal al-Rabian announced that the ministry prepared 25 hospitals and 155 medical centers at the holy sites, in addition to 100 small ambulances working as mobile intensive-care units, which are capable of reaching crowded areas to attend to the injured.

He said the ministry prepared more than 286 special rooms to receive cases of heat stress and sunstroke, while medial teams carried out free-of-charge operations including open heart procedures, cardiac catheterization, dialysis and other medical services.

Also speaking at the conference, Director of the public relations and media department at the Public Security Colonel Sami al-Shuwairekh who stated that 459,323 violating pilgrims had been denied access.

He also added that a total of 1,841 pilgrims are facing penal action and they were handed to the Public Prosecution or other concerned agencies to take necessary procedures against them.

In addition, 3,296 vehicles were seized from the entry points.