Everything went according to plan and we have had no untoward incident at the Jamarat," said Interior Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Mansour Al-Turki.
"The arrangements were excellent and great care was taken to avoid the massing of pilgrims on the Jamarat Bridge which has been a scene of tragedy on numerous occasions in the past," he added.
The stoning ritual has created tragic incidents over the past years. In 2006, 364 people were killed in a stampede at the entrance of the Jamarat Bridge.
The Saudi authorities have made the stoning ritual much easier compared to previous years with the construction of the SR4.2-billion Jamarat Bridge expansion, which is set for completion next year.
Helicopters hovered constantly overhead to monitor the huge crowds; they were assisted by hundreds of high-tech cameras, all connected to a control room run by security authorities.
Security forces also assisted the pilgrims and organized their movements on the Jamarat Bridge to make it smooth and incident-free.
The stoning will be repeated Friday, December 21, when the hajj draws to a close.
The stoning ritual takes place at the site where Satan appeared to Prophet Ibrahim (peace be upon him), his wife Hager and son Ismail.
Ibrahim and his family each threw seven stones at Satan. The gesture has been perpetuated, and Muslims must perform it in order to complete the hajj.
According to an official report issued by the General Statistics Department, 2,454,325 pilgrims performed hajj this year.
This number includes 1,707,814 pilgrims who came from 181 countries and 746,511 from within the Kingdom.
A large number of overstaying Umra pilgrims also joined the hajj to further boost the final count.
Pilgrims were not allowed this year to carry their luggage on the Jamarat Bridge, because it was one of the major causes of past tragedies.
"We have learned our lesson," said Al-Turki, the Interior Ministry's spokesman. "They are unable to withstand the pressure on the bridge and they then dump their luggage in the middle."
The official added that this then becomes a death trap.
"If one pilgrim trips, it leads to a domino effect and then everything goes wrong," explained Al-Turki.
"We took no chances this time. We will never again allow pilgrims to carry luggage to the Jamarat plaza," he said.
The luggage problem arose because some pilgrims had no accommodation in Mina.
"If they had come through proper channels, they would have had proper tents to keep their belongings in," said Al-Turki.
Saad Al-Ghamdi, a police officer, said some pilgrims were frustrated because they did not know of the new rules.
"But we have very strict instructions not to allow any baggage onto the platform," he said, adding that he and his colleagues explained to the faithful that the rules had been made for their safety.
But many others welcomed the luggage ban.
"We welcome the move. We have always asked for this. Luggage on the bridge has always been a disaster," said Indian Consul General Dr. Ausaf Sayeed, who heads his country's hajj mission this year.
"Our pilgrims performed the ritual in record time. We have had no problem."
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Güncelleme Tarihi: 20 Aralık 2007, 16:55