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Hajj Participation Up 30 Percent As Annual Event In Saudi Arabia Ends

SAUDI ARABIA -- Muslim worshippers arrives for the symbolic al-A'qabah (stoning of the devil ritual) at the Jamarat Bridge during the Hajj pilgrimage in Mina, near Mecca, September 1, 2017

Officials in Saudi Arabia declared a successful end to this year’s hajj pilgrimage, which drew 2.3 million Muslims from around the world without reports of major problems.

Prince Khalid al-Faisal, who led the government-run committee that oversaw the hajj, on September 3 said this year’s celebration attracted 30 percent more people than the event last year.

“More than two million pilgrims have come to this holy land in order to embody the correct humanitarian image of Muslims,” Faisal said.

He added that no significant problems were reported in the five-day event.

In recent years, the hajj has been hit by deadly riots, fires, and stampedes.

The 2015 hajj saw some 2,300 pilgrims, many of them from Iran, crushed to death in a ritual near Mecca -- a tragedy that led to rising tensions between the host Saudis and rival Iran.

Tehran ordered a boycott of the event in 2016, but they allowed participation again this year.

As host, Saudi Arabia has made great effort to make hajj rituals easier and safer for pilgrims, including widen roads and deploying more than 100,000 security personnel.

Muslims are expected to perform the hajj at least once in their lifetime if they are fit enough and have the financial means to make the pilgrimage.

Based on reporting by DPA and AP