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Saudi Arabia pledges 100,000 troops to protect haj 2015

Saudi Arabia pledges 100,000 troops to protect haj 2015

Elite counter-terrorism units and police deployed to holy sites as three million pilgrims are expected to arrive on Tuesday

Saudi Arabia has sent more than 100,000 security personnel to safeguard its holy sites of Mecca and Madinah from terrorism attacks before the haj begins this week, the country’s Interior Ministry has confirmed.

The ministry’s spokesman Major General Mansour al-Turki has said that the country was and remains a target for terrorism attacks.

An elite counterterrorism unit, traffic police and emergency civil defence personnel are among those deployed to help with crowd control and safety and will be further supported by additional troops from the army and national guard, al-Turki said.

Speaking to Associated Press, he said: “We always concentrate on haj considering that a threat might exist. We’ve been targeted by terrorism for years now and we know that we are a target for terrorist groups. We’re active, we’re awake.”

Roughly three million Muslims from around the world are expected to converge at the Kaaba in Mina and other nearby areas for the haj, and will carry out a series of rituals meant to cleanse the soul of sins over approximately five days. All able-bodied Muslims are required to perform the haj once in their lives.

Saudi Arabia has been seeing a spate of attacks carried out Islamist militants in recent months. Atleast 25 people were killed when suicide bombers from the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant carried out attacks in Shiite mosques in Qatif and Dammam.

A further 15 people were killed last month in Abha, 350 miles south of Mecca, in an ISIL-claimed suicide bombing inside a mosque in a police compound. Eleven of the dead belonged to the counterterrorism unit tasked with protecting the upcoming haj.

The kingdom also faces threats to the south of its border in Yemen, where an Indian man was reportedly killed on Saturday in a mortar attack.

Saudi Arabia has pledged that it will continue to battle militancy and issued a statement on Saturday re-affirming its commitment to fighting terrorism across the region.

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