Iraqi forces secure passage of hajj pilgrims crossing border

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Around 14,500 hajj pilgrims have crossed to Saudi Arabia from Iraq in recent days through the Arar border crossing after Iraqi forces secured their passage.

The desert roads which link Iraq to neighboring countries, including the Saudi kingdom, have witnessed several security incidents due to the presence of outlaws who have found refuge in the desert.

Amid the security fears, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has requested that hajj authorities not grant special permission for anyone to enter Saudi Arabia, other than those who have been selected to perform the hajj pilgrimage.

Army and police forces, special forces battalions, intelligence forces and helicopters have secured the pilgrims’ crossing to Saudi Arabia.

All pilgrims heading to Saudi Arabia through the Arar border had to do so by first arriving at Anbar province, an area which has seen unrest in recent months.

The Anbar police chief said security forces within the province had “devised a thorough plan to secure the passage of pilgrims from Anbar and other provinces.”

Hajj, attended by millions of pilgrims each year, is the fifth and final pillar of Islam. It takes place in the month of Dhul Hijjah which is the 12th month of the Islamic lunar calendar.

During the religious event, those Muslims who make the journey are required to spend five days in the desert surrounding the city of Makkah in modern-day Saudi Arabia. They travel between specified points to perform rites laid down in Islam’s holy book, the Quran.