Saudi security chiefs highlighting security plans for upcoming Hajj. Image Credit: SPA

Cairo: Saudi security agencies have caught more than 153,000 visit visa holders for violating Hajj rules as part of a clampdown on irregular pilgrims and their collaborators ahead of this week’s annual Islamic pilgrimage, a senior official has disclosed.

Saudi authorities have repeatedly said a visit visa does not qualify its holder to perform the Hajj in and around the holy city of Mecca.

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In addition, Saudi security forces have caught 140 fake Hajj campaigns and 64 transporters who violated Hajj regulations, chief of Public Security and head of the Hajj Security Committee Lt. Gen. Mohammed Al Bassami said at a press conference in Mecca on Saturday.

He added that 97,664 unauthorised vehicles and 171,587 people who are not residents of Mecca have been returned, denied access to the city.

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“The security forces are ready to deal firmly with any attempt to disrupt security or order,” said Lt-Gen. Al Bassami, stressing that the pilgrims’ security is a “red line”.

“Priorities of the Hajj security forces include maintaining security and safety of the Guests of God while performing their rites in different holy places,” he said, according to the Saudi news agency SPA.

“To achieve this, it is necessary to prevent violators of the Hajj regulations and instructions who have not obtained Hajj permits from entering the holy places by imposing a security cordon at the entrances to Mecca and the sites of rituals,” he added.

Infiltration attempts

Addressing the same conference, chief of security aviation Maj. Gen. Abdulaziz Al Duraijan said reconnaissance monitoring will be intensified over the site of the Day of Arafat, which marks the pinnacle of Hajj and due on Saturday, to detect infiltration attempts by unauthorised pilgrims.

The Saudi Ministry of Interior has vowed stringent penalties against violators of the Hajj rules inside certain areas including Mecca, the Central Area and sacred places during the period of June 2- 20.

Violators of Hajj regulations, be they citizens, foreign residents and visitors arrested without having a Hajj permit, are liable to a fine of SR10,000. Expatriate violators will also be deported and barred from re-entry into the kingdom. The fine will double on repetition.

Meanwhile, a person caught transporting violators of the Hajj-related instructions and illegal pilgrims faces jailing up to six months and a maximum fine of SR50,000.

If the violating transporter is an expatriate, the offender will be deported from the kingdom and denied re-entry after serving the term.