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Muslims Begin Hajj Pilgrimage Amid Tight Security

A Saudi official displays an electronic identification bracelet that Saudi authorities are giving to pilgrims ahead of the hajj.

Nearly 1.5 million Muslims begin the annual hajj pilgrimage on September 10 in Saudi Arabia, amid tight security measures.

The pilgrims, clad in seamless cloth, started moving from the holy city of Mecca to Mina -- some five kilometers east of Mecca -- following in the footsteps of the Prophet Muhammad who performed the same rituals about 1,400 years ago.

At sunrise on September 11, they will head for Mount Arafat, around 20 kilometers east of Mecca, for a congregation that marks the climax of the hajj.

Saudi authorities have stepped up security for the five-day pilgrimage to tightly control the crowd to avoid the recurrence of last year's stampede, which killed hundreds of people.

The measures include digital bracelets issued to the pilgrims to help identify and guide them in the congestion. The bracelets are linked to a GPS location system.

Tens of thousands of Iranians are absent from this year’s hajj because of long-running tensions between their Shi’ite nation and Sunni-dominated Saudi Arabia.

The hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam that every capable Muslim must perform at least once in their life.

Based on reporting dpa and AFP