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Millions march into Mina as Hajj begins

Al Qaeda denies plot to target Muslim pilgrims
MAKKAH: The hajj begins in Saudi Arabia. Hundreds of thousands of people set out on a journey from Mecca to Mount Arafat through the valleys of Mina and Muzdalifa. It is expected that this year’s hajj will be attended by some 3.5 million people.
Recently a special light-rail metro was opened, connecting Mecca with the valleys. The following year, when construction is completed, every six hours the light-rail metro will carry up to half a million people. Hajj is one of the five compulsory duties of a Muslim, guaranteeing him pardon for all sins and the attainment of eternal bliss in the life hereafter.
On the other hand, Yemen-based al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula denied on Sunday it would stage any action to coincide with the Hajj pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia after a Saudi minister said such an operation could not be ruled out.
“We are against any crimes against pilgrims, Hajj is a pillar of Islam and we are most eager not to spill the blood of Muslims, wherever they may be. Mecca is more sacred than any other place,” AQAP said in a statement posted on an Islamist website often used by militants.
The statement followed remarks last week by the Saudi interior minister in which he suggested al Qaeda may attack the around two million Muslims who are due to start their pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia.
Asked whether al Qaeda might stage an attack on the Hajj or use the event to try and get fighters from Yemen into the kingdom, Prince Nayef bin Abdulaziz said: “We cannot rule out any operation but we are ready to foil it. -Agencies


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