Tens of thousands of Muslim pilgrims are performing the ritual "stoning of the devil," Friday, outside of Mecca, in Saudi Arabia, in one of the high points of the annual Hajj. Security has been tight and both King Abdallah and other leaders have emphasized the need to protect the kingdom against "infiltrators" from Yemen.
Crowds of pilgrims cast stones at a series of concrete pillars or "jumrat" outside of Mecca, Friday, in a ritual meant to symbolize the renunciation of Satan.
Saudi security forces kept a watchful eye on pilgrims, deploying tanks, armored personnel carriers, police vehicles and helicopters to maintain the peace. Some 2,000 security cameras were used to monitor strategic locations.
Sheikh Osman Khayat delivered the sermon before pilgrims at Mecca's Grand Mosque, calling for unity among muslims and decrying divisions provoked by what he called malevolent forces. The sheikh went on to denounce invaders and infiltrators from Yemen and those who support them.
He says that we must avoid divisions among Muslims and fight those who are trying to sow divisions, ignoring their calls to provoke strife. He says these people are now showing their true identities and acting with outright aggression, infiltrating Saudi Arabia's southern border with weapons and equipment.
Saudi King Abdallah also addressed his top officers and government officials to thank them for making this year's pilgrimage run smoothly and safely and for protecting the country from dangerous outside enemies.
He says that everyone should know that Saudi Arabia does not seek to conquer anyone, but at the same time it will not allow anyone to profane a single inch of its soil. He warns that Saudi Arabia has no other choice but to defend itself, and the alternatives are simple: victory with honor or death in God and the nation's service.
Top Saudi officials and the Saudi media continue to accuse Iran of supporting Houthi rebels, along the border with Yemen, where clashes with Saudi security forces have recently increased. Interior Minister Prince Nayef complained recently that the rebels and their allies were "infiltrating into the kingdom ... and could try to provoke violence."
Saudi TV indicated that some skirmishes were continuing along the Yemeni border, near Jazan, and that artillery fire and shelling was intermittent. General Hussein Mohammed Alwee, the Saudi commander in Jazan, said his men were working to repulse the invaders.
He says that the confrontations continue each day and night and they have not stopped. With God's help, he insists, his men will drive out the invaders and win a decisive victory to purge our sacred soil of these hordes of mercenaries.
Iranian pilgrims held a protest outside of Mecca, Thursday, in which the leader read a statement by Iran's Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. In a clear insult to Saudi King Abdullah, the reader called Khamenei the "leader of all Muslims."