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Saudis bust ring planning haj attack: report

Saudi authorities have arrested an al-Qaeda linked group planning to carry out terrorist attacks during the annual haj pilgrimage, al-Arabiya television quoted security officials as saying.

world Updated: Dec 22, 2007 03:39 IST

Saudi authorities have arrested an al-Qaeda linked group planning to carry out terrorist attacks during the annual haj pilgrimage, al-Arabiya television quoted security officials as saying on Friday.



The Saudi sources said the arrests were carried out in several different cities of the kingdom.



"The group aimed to trouble the security of the pilgrimage" which has this week attracted some 2.5 million Muslim pilgrims from around the world to Islam's holiest sites in western Saudi Arabia, the television report said.



Members of the group, whose number was unknown, were arrested "three days before the start of the haj season", or at the end of last week, the sources told the Dubai-based Arab satellite station. The report, which gave no further details, emerged as the haj was winding down on Friday, with the pilgrims preparing to fly home.



The annual gathering, which every Muslim is expected to attend at least once in a lifeterm if they have the means, has been hit by a series of disasters over the years, but most of them caused by stampedes or fires.



There were no major incidents reported during this year's haj. However, in December 1979, 151 people were killed and 560 wounded after Saudi security forces stormed the Grand Mosque in Mecca to rescue pilgrims held hostage by Islamist militants for about two weeks.



And in July 1989, one person was killed and 16 wounded within the Grand Mosque sanctuary in a double attack blamed on 16 Kuwaiti Shiites who were executed later the same year.