Pilgrims converge for stoning of the devil

JAMARAT, Saudi Arabia: More than two million pilgrims hurled pebbles at a giant wall in a symbolic stoning of the devil on Tuesday, the start of the riskiest part of the annual Haj pilgrimage.
Clad in white robes signifying a state of purity, men and women from 165 countries converged on Jamarat to perform the ritual from a three-storey bridge erected to ease congestion after earlier stampedes.
Under close supervision from Saudi authorities, the faithful carried umbrellas to block the blazing sun, with daytime temperatures topping 40 degrees Celsius.
Saudi has deployed more than 130,000 security forces and medics as well as modern technology including surveillance drones to maintain order.
“The police assistance and the services were all extraordinary. Praise God, I am very happy and God willing our Lord will provide for us again,” said Jordanian Firas al Khashani, 33.
Pilgrims are asked to follow carefully orchestrated schedules for performing each stage of Haj, but with more than two million participants, panic is a constant danger.
More than 2.37 million pilgrims, most of them from abroad, have arrived this year for the five-day ritual.
King Salman arrived in Mina, east of Mecca, on Monday evening ahead of Eid al Adha.
“Our country’s greatest honour
is to serve God’s guests,” the Saudi King tweeted. — AFP