Pilgrims gather in Saudi valley for last rite of Haj

Hundreds of thousands gather in a valley near Saudi city of Mina for the stoning of the devil, the last and dangerous rite of Haj

Mina: Hundreds of thousands of Muslim pilgrims massed in a valley near the Saudi holy city of Mina on Sunday for the stoning of the devil, the last and dangerous rite of the annual Haj.

Hundreds of people have been trampled to death in stampedes which have blighted several previous pilgrimages to Islam’s holiest sites when the faithful rush to hurl stones at huge pillars symbolising the devil.

In the last rite of Haj in Saudi Arabia on Sunday, Muslim pilgrims cast stones at a pillar, symbolising the stoning of the devil.

To complete the ritual, a pilgrim must throw 21 pebbles at each of three 25-metre pillars.

Saudi authorities have installed a multi-level walkway through the site in a bid to avoid the trampling that caused the deaths of 364 people in 2006, 251 in 2004 and 1,426 in 1990.

So far this year, no major incidents have been reported among the more than 2.5 million pilgrims.

“Things are going well and according to plans,” interior ministry spokesman General Mansour Al Turki told AFP.

A large security force monitored worshippers headed for the stoning after slaughtering sheep in a ritual for Eid Al Adha or the Feast of the Sacrifice to recall Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son on God’s order.

Most pilgrims did not sacrifice an animal themselves, but instead bought vouchers from the Saudi authorities which then forward meat in the form of aid to poor Muslims in other countries.

After the stoning ceremony, the pilgrims go to Makkah’s Great Mosque for a “farewell visit” to the Kaaba, a cube-shaped structure into which is set the Black Stone, Islam’s most sacred relic.

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Categories: Asia, ISLAM, Saudi Arabia

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