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1.5 Million Muslims Gather on Mt. Arafat for Hajj - 2004-01-31

More than a 1.5 million Muslims were gathering at Mount Arafat in Saudi Arabia on Saturday for the central ritual of the annual hajj pilgrimage to Mecca.

Amid tight security, masses of believers made their way toward the place where the Prophet Mohammad is said to have delivered his final sermon some 14 centuries ago.

For the pilgrims, standing on Mount Arafat and praying for Allah's forgiveness is the high point of the annual hajj, because it represents the Day of Judgment.

Saudi forces have increased security during the pilgrimage to try to thwart any terrorist act and ensure the safety of the huge crowds. Stampedes and large fires have resulted in hundreds of deaths in recent years.

As part of an ongoing crackdown on alleged terrorist cells in the area, Saudi officials arrested seven suspected Islamic militants and seized a large cache of weapons during two separate raids in Riyadh on Friday.