The spokesman for interior ministry of Saudi Arabia, Maj. General Mansour Al-Turki, has announced that security troops, 100,000 in number, along with 5,000 CCTV cameras have been deployed in Mecca to oversee the safety of pilgrims during the Hajj season this year. The high security comes amid a growing threat of Islamic State militants, who have been responsible for a number of bombings throughout the Gulf region, killing scores of civilians.
More than 3 million people participate in the annual Hajj every year, in which the pilgrims perform a series of rituals in order to cleanse their soul from sins and attain spiritual purity. The annual event is also marked by an intense feeling of brotherhood, as thousands of people from varying nationalities and backgrounds wear a similar piece of clothing, all in the service of God.
Saudi Arabia also faces a high security threat from neighboring Yemeni Houthi rebels, who on Friday shelled a Samta General Hospital in Saudi Arabia’s Jizan province, killing an Indian national and injuring 6 others. All nurses have been evacuated and transferred to the King Fahd Hospital for safety reasons. The Houthi shelling was in response to the Saudi-led airstrikes.
The kingdom has been engaged in a number of military expeditions against the Houthi rebels in Yemen that has resulted in a number of casualties on both sides. Threats from ISIS are also on high alert as Gulf leaders look to increase security following a number of mosque bomb blasts on their soil. Saudi Arabia has faced a number of such attacks in the Eastern province and its Shia minority is exposed to such risks the most.
The Kuwait mosque bomb blast that killed up to 27 people this June had proven to be a wake-up call after the man responsible for planting the bomb was identified as a 25 year-old Saudi resident, Fahad Suleiman Abdul-Mohsen al-Gabba.
Al-Turki commented that ensuring the safety of thousands of pilgrims during the Hajj season requires having to deploy a massive security presence within the Grand Mosque of Mecca. He explains that a considerable number of people among the crowds, performing the rituals are members of a dedicated and elite counter terrorism unit, emergency civil defense personnel, and traffic police. In addition to this, a number of soldiers from the National Guard and army provide security within and outside the Grand Mosque.
The tragic death of over a 100 people following the collapse of an under construction crane was quickly responded by a number of members of the emergency civil defense team that rushed to the scene. Although the authorities attributed the tragedy to the severe winds and rainfall, the contractor was blamed for not taking adequate precautions for ensuring the crane was in a safe position.
The government of Saudi Arabia has also staged a police and military parade in Mecca to deter would-be troublemakers on Thursday.