Pilgrims leave after the Asr afternoon prayer at Makkah’s Grand Mosque on Friday. Image Credit: AFP

Makkah: The spokesman for Saudi Arabia’s Interior Ministry says some 100,000 security personnel have been deployed to oversee the annual Muslim Haj pilgrimage that begins on Tuesday.

Maj. Gen. Mansour Al Turki says among those securing the massive crowds during haj are members of an elite counterterrorism unit, traffic police and emergency civil defense personnel. They are being supported by additional troops from the army and national guard.

The pilgrimage comes as Saudi Arabia faces an expansion of Daesh attacks that have killed dozens of people this year.

Al Turki vowed in an exclusive interview with The Associated Press on Saturday that Daesh “cannot control a centimeter anywhere in Saudi Arabia.”

Haj is expected to draw up to 3 million people from around the world this year to Makkah.

On Friday, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Nayef said the government would not allow any political propaganda during this year’s Haj and those trying to violate the pilgrimage’s sanctity will be arrested.

“Security systems in various sectors are fully prepared to deal with whoever tries to pose a threat to the lives of Haj pilgrims,” Prince Mohammad said.

He was apparently referring to possible attempts by some groups to use the Haj pilgrimage for highlighting the situation in Syria and Yemen.

He said the kingdom has tackled terrorist activities with determination and resolve in the past.

On Thursday, an extensive review of security and other arrangements for Haj was completed. Referring to the crane tragedy which claimed more than 100 lives, the prince said the incident would not affect the Haj.

“All preparations have been made to ensure safety and security throughout the season,” he was quoted by Saudi press. He said ensuring pilgrims’ well-being is of supreme priority to the kingdom.

The prince said the Haj pilgrims arriving from strife-torn Yemen were being provided all facilities.

“But if there is any hurdle to their Haj it is due to the acts of Al Houthis and supporters of Ali Abdullah Saleh who have destabilised Yemen and jeopardised the safety of Yemeni people,” he added.

He said the people of Yemen understand this very well and they also know the Saudi policy towards them.

Referring to the last two operations in Riyadh meant to thwart terrorist designs, he said the security agencies are vigilant and they are closely monitoring all terrorist organisations.

About Eid Al Adha coinciding with the Saudi National Day this year, the prince said this is a unique opportunity to remind citizens about the foundations of the Islamic country and its services to Islam and Muslims.

“This is why Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman has made extra efforts to provide best services and comprehensive care to the pilgrims,” he said.