Qataris, Iranians travel to Saudi for Hajj despite tensions

Again Sokoto pilgrims return lost money

The National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) said on Tuesday that four Nigerian pilgrims have died since the commencement of the 2017 Hajj in Saudi Arabia.

Asked if the authorities had detected any specific plots against this year's hajj, he said: "Not at all".

About 8,000 Saudi boy scouts are volunteering to serve the pilgrims providing them with direction and guidance.

The government said it had taken serious steps, including fine and jail terms against violators, to ensure smooth Hajj rituals for pilgrims.

They will also slaughter their sacrificial animals and proceed to the Grand Mosque to do tawaf Al-Ifadah, which culminates the rites. A stampede in 2015 left more than 2,400 pilgrims dead.

Out of the total two million pilgrims, Pakistani Haji are around 200,000 (0.2m) and this too makes the largest number of pilgrims from Pakistan in years.

During the Hajj, Muslims walk around it seven times anti-clockwise.

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In the absence of diplomatic relations and with its missions in Iran closed, Saudi Arabia agreed to issue electronic visas for Iranian pilgrims.

Another perennial concern is the potential for spreading disease among the pilgrims, who spend five days in close quarters with each other, often eating outside and sleeping on the ground near holy sites.

But he also urged pilgrims to abide by their assigned schedule for performing the sacred rituals.

Saraki further called on the pilgrims to pray for the security, peace, unity and development of the country as according to him, "a prayer for your country and her leaders is as important as asking Allah to grant you your personal wishes".

This year the five-day holy pilgrimage is set to take place between Wednesday August 30 (today) and Monday September 4. It has opened several new health centres this year and run simulations to practise emergency response.

"More than 450,000 Hajj violators were returned after verifying they either lacked the proper permits or the ones they thought were legal turned out fake", Al-Turki was quoted by Al Arabiya as saying.

According to officials of Pakistani ministry of Religious Affairs, the Pakistani pilgrims were satisfied with the Hajj arrangements.

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