22 January 2005 -- The annual Muslim hajj pilgrimage drew to a close today in Saudi Arabia as pilgrims performed the final rituals amid unusually heavy rainfall.
Some 2.5 million pilgrims had until sundown today to complete the symbolic act of stoning the devil, represented by three pillars in the city of Mina. They then must make the 1.5-kilometer trek to Mecca to circle the Kaaba a final seven times. The Kaaba is the large stone structure that Muslims face during their daily prayers.
Saudi authorities introduced new safety measures and deployed some 50,000 security officers this year to deal with the large crowds. Last year, some 250 people were trampled to death during the stoning ritual.
There have been no reports of major incidents today.
U.S. President George W. Bush hailed the "kindness and charity" of Muslims in a message to coincide with the Islamic holiday of Eid Al-Adha.