We're ready to confront any threat: Naif

Posted in Terrorism , Broader Middle East | 04-Dec-08 | Source: Gulf in the Media

Muslim pilgrims leave the Grand Mosque after completing prayers there during the annual haj pilgrimage in Mecca December 4, 2008.

Interior Minister Prince Naif stated yesterday that Saudi security forces are ready to counter any possible security threats during the annual pilgrimage that begins Saturday with the participation of more than 2.5 million faithful. He said the Kingdom has deployed about 100,000 security personnel on Haj duty this year.

“We don’t have any information (about threats) but we have taken all precautions to face anything, whatever be its size,” the prince told reporters after inspecting Haj facilities in the holy sites and the readiness of security forces for the largest gathering of Muslims in the world.

“Our security forces are fully prepared for any eventualities and we hope the holiness of this Islamic event would be respected and nobody would try to undermine its security,” he said.

On behalf of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah and Crown Prince Sultan, Prince Naif welcomed the guests of God performing Haj this year. “We wish all of them an acceptable and rewarding Haj,” he said.

Prince Naif confirmed reports that Saudi authorities had increased the number of Haj visas issued to Palestinian pilgrims. “We hope all of them will be able to perform Haj this year. We’ll welcome them even if they arrive on the 8th of Dul Hijjah,” he said.

Prince Naif, who is chairman of the Supreme Haj Committee, urged all pilgrims, including those from within the Kingdom, to abide by the regulations.

“We have taken all measures to prevent those who do not carry Haj permits from entering the holy sites,” he said. However, he said it would be difficult to prevent illegal pilgrims going from Makkah.

Prince Naif, who visited the newly built Jamrat Bridge in Mina, said the expansion of the Grand Mosque in Makkah would reduce crowding during peak seasons. The Jamrat project is being carried out at a cost of SR4 billion to facilitate movement of pilgrims during the stoning ritual, considered the most difficult of the Haj rituals to control due to the heavy crowding around the three pillars symbolizing Satan.

He said the government would not accept agencies that provide services to foreign and domestic pilgrims inflating costs. “The rent for tents is well-known, but the prices charged by Haj agencies are very high and must be reviewed,” he said, adding that the government would give utmost importance to this issue.

Prince Naif, accompanied by Makkah Gov. Prince Khaled Al-Faisal and Prince Muhammad bin Naif, assistant interior minister for security affairs, visited the camps of special security forces. He also witnessed a parade of security forces with their weapons and machinery. Lt. Gen. Saeed Al-Qahtani, director general of public security, said this is the first year that a special Haj and Umrah security force would be deployed.