Saudi shows military might ahead of Haj pilgrimage in Mecca

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Saudi shows military might ahead of Haj pilgrimage in Mecca

More than 1.4 million Muslims have so far arrived in Saudi Arabia for the hajj, authorities said Thursday, with the annual pilgrimage marked by the return of Iranians after a boycott by Tehran previous year.

Saudi Arabian security forces marched through a parade ground in Mecca as pilgrims around the world started to converge towards the Muslim holy city for the annual Haj pilgrimage.

Overall, the kingdom is expecting 11 per cent more hajj pilgrims this year to reach 2.038 million, according to Prince Khalid Al-Faisal, advisor to the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, governor of Makkah Region and chairman of the Central Hajj Committee.

In September 2015, 2000 people were crushed or suffocated to death in a stampede, sparking widespread condemnation of the Saudi authorities.

Oladimeji Seun Ayelotan, 30, was sentenced to 95 years in prison; Rasaq Aderoju Raheem, 31, was given 115 years and Femi Alexander Mewase, 45, got 25 years behind bars.

Every able-bodied Muslim is supposed to undertake it at least once in their lifetime. But the Saudi authorities imposed new restrictions on the pilgrims from Qatar.Qatari pilgrims are denied performing the Haj due to restrictions imposed by Saudi by limiting their travel by only Saudi airlines, absence of Qatari consulate in Jeddah, ban of money transfer through Saudi banks and logistics problems.

Almost 90,000 Iranians were also set to attend the Haj in Mecca this year, after Tehran boycotted the pilgrimage last year amid tensions with Saudi Arabia.

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