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A general view of hajj pilgrims throwing stones at a pillar representing the devil in Mina (file photo) (epa) January 2, 2007 -- Hundreds of thousands of Muslim pilgrims circled the Kaaba, Islam's holiest site, for a final time today in Mecca, bringing to a close what may have been the largest hajj ever.

Several thousand faithful remained behind in Mina, some 5 kilometers east of Mecca, to stone pillars representing Satan for a fourth and final day.

The hajj, one of the five pillars of Islam, passed this year without the deadly incidents that have marred it in the past.

Many pilgrims praised new safety measures taken by Saudi authorities since a stampede in 2006 killed more than 360 pilgrims during the stoning ritual.

After last year's tragedy, a larger platform was erected for the pilgrims to use as they performed the ritual.

Authorities estimate that up to 3 million pilgrims may have participated in this year's hajj, around half of them from outside the kingdom.

All able-bodied Muslims are expected to undertake the hajj once in a lifetime if they have the means.

(AP, AFP)
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