World Bulletin / News Desk
Nigeria has resumed flights to Saudi Arabia for the annual haj pilgrimage, ending a diplomatic row over the detention of hundreds of female pilgrims for arriving unaccompanied by men, the country's haj commission said on Tuesday.
Saudi authorities have deported more than 600 female Nigerian pilgrims and detained hundreds for trying to visit the Islamic holy city of Mecca without male relatives. Nigeria suspended flights to Saudi last week.
"Since the resumption of flights ... on Sunday a total of 8 flights have been operated conveying 3,786 pilgrims to the holy land," the Hajj Commission of Nigeria said in a statement.
"This success was recorded largely as a result of the directive given to state pilgrims' welfare boards, agencies, to ensure that only female pilgrims that have the appropriate Muharram (male companion) are boarded."
All Muslims who are able are required to perform the haj pilgrimage at least once, as one of the five pillars of Islam. Numbers taking part have risen sharply over the last 80 years from around 20,000 in 1932 to nearly three million in 2011.