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Muslim Pilgrims Perform Stoning Rituals at Hajj in Saudi Arabia


More than two million Muslims on the hajj in Saudi Arabia have gathered in the holy city of Mina Wednesday, for traditional stoning rites.

During the ceremony, pilgrims cast stones at three pillars representing Satan. The ritual is often the most dangerous event during the hajj.

Saudi authorities have undertaken several measures to ensure the safety of pilgrims, including the addition of two upper levels to the bridge complex leading to the pillars, in an effort to relieve crowding.

In another change, they have also extended the height of the pillars, making them an easier target.

Last year, more than 360 people were killed during a stampede on the bridge leading to the pillars. A similar tragedy in 2004 saw more than 200 people trampled to death.

Following the stoning ceremony today, some pilgrims celebrate the Eid al-Adha, or the day of sacrifice.

Traditionally sheep, goats and cows are sacrificed in remembrance of Abraham's readiness to sacrifice his son to God.

Instead of pilgrims sacrificing animals, the Saudi government prefers them to buy coupons in order to avoid meat being wasted. The coupons pay for the meat of sacrificed animals to be frozen and sent abroad to feed needy Muslims.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.

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