2.4m Muslims mark peak of Hajj
KABUL (Pajhwok): More than two million Muslims, including about 24,000 Afghans, thronged Mount Arafat and its surrounding plain in Saudi Arabia on Friday for the high point of the Haj pilgrimage.
The sea of people from different countries standing together, united by faith spent the night in tent city of Mina as tens of thousands of pilgrims clad in white seamless cloth (Ihram) headed towards Mount Arafat following dawn prayers.
On reaching Arafat, they crowded onto the hill and the plain surrounding it to pray until sunset. Helicopters hovered overhead and thousands of troops stood guard to organise roads flooded with men, women and children in Arafat, about 15 km east of the holy city of Makkah.
All the pilgrims will spend the day in prayer and supplication, marking the high point of the five-day Haj. The pilgrims would return to Mina valley on Saturday after offering morning prayers.
After sunset, the pilgrims will march toward Muzdalifah Valley and spend the night there in prayers after performing combined Maghreb (evening) and Isha (night) prayers.
Saudi Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Naif said a total of 1,389,053 foreign pilgrims have arrived for Haj this year from 163 countries. Among the total foreign pilgrims, 757,981 are men and 631,072 women.
The Saudi government has kept strict vigil to prevent pilgrims from entering the sacred places. So far, 1420 have been caught violating Haj regulations in addition to 61,558 vehicles checked trying to enter the sacred area without obtaining Haj permission.
Healthcare has been given top priority by the Saudi government with nearly 22,000 medics, paramedics, and administrators deployed to provide healthcare services at 182 healthcare facilities.
This year’s Haj is taking place against the backdrop of fear of two deadly viruses — Ebola and the MERS coronavirus — and rise of Islamic State group in the Middle East.
Saudi Arabia and four other Arab nations have joined Washington in air strikes against Islamic State group militants who have committed a spate of atrocities in Syrian and Iraqi territory they seized.
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