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Saudi on High Alert on Anti-U.S. Protests

Posted February. 21, 2002 09:17,   


The `Haji,` greatest annual religious event of Islam visiting the holy place Mecca, began on 20th. The great crowd of the pilgrims from all over the world waved around the holy place.

The Saudi government is on high alert deploying 60,000 police and security agents to prevent possible violation including the anti-U.S. protests since this is the first massive gathering of Muslims amid the peaked anti-U.S. sentiment in the Islamic world after the 9.11 terror. Helicopters are hovering over Mecca and over 2000 cameras were installed everywhere in the holy city.

The Saudi Minister of Home Affairs warned the pilgrims that "the government will not be tolerant of using the religious rite for political purpose. Just devote on your religious duty."

The Saudi government estimated that 1.34 million Muslims from 160 countries entered the nation by 17th. However, the local press reported that the pilgrims are surging into Mecca continuously and it would reach 2.5 million.

Particularly, the pilgrims from Afghan under the interim government called attention this year. Saudi, Pakistan, and the United Kingdom transported 12,5000 Afghanistan Muslims who have Haji Visas.

In addition, it was estimated that over 1.5 million pilgrims, including Indonesians (200,000), Pakistanis (130,000), Turkish (90,000), and Egyptians (88,000), are staying in Mecca. Various accidents have recurred during the period of Haji such as fire or death from pressure since too much people crowded in the holy place.