Muslim Hajj pilgrims perform Satan stoning ritual

MINA, Saudi Arabia:(Correspondent) Almost 2.5 million Muslim pilgrims took part Sunday in the “stoning of the devil”, the last major ritual of the annual Hajj pilgrimage.

Carrying pebbles in the scorching heat, worshippers made their way across Mina Valley near Makkah in western Saudi Arabia to symbolically “humiliate” the devil.

Under the watchful eyes of security forces, waves of pilgrims clad in white threw seven stones each at a pillar symbolising Satan.

Muslim tradition holds that pilgrims must throw seven stones each at a pillar representing Satan on the first day of Eid al-Adha, following two days of prayer and meditation.

The hajj, one of the world´s largest religious gatherings, this year officially drew 2.49 million pilgrims to Islam´s holiest sites in Saudi Arabia.

Tens of thousands of security forces, including police and civil defence, have been deployed for hajj, according to Saudi authorities.

Ambulances are mobilised to assist the faithful, cameras follow their movement, helicopters constantly fly over this valley of white tents that only comes alive once a year during the hajj.

Large fans sprayed water over the crowd amid soaring temperatures.

Saudi Arabia´s King Salman made the trip to Mina on Saturday and was seen on state-run television observing worshippers from the window of a high-rise.

“We pray to Allah almighty to… accept their pilgrimage and worship,” he tweeted on Sunday, which marked the beginning of Eid al-Adha, the festival of sacrifice.

Muslims traditionally slaughter sheep for the three-day holiday in tribute to Prophet Abraham´s sacrifice of a lamb after God at the last moment spared Ishmael, his son.

They consume some of the meat and give the rest to poor people unable to buy food.

Pilgrims can purchase coupons from the Saudi government, which organises the slaughter and freezing of the meat to avoid public health problems.

After the stoning ritual, pilgrims return to the Grand Mosque in Mecca to perform a final “tawaf” or circling of the Kaaba.