On Sunday, almost 2.5 million Muslims will embark on the annual hajj pilgrimage to an encampment near the holy city of Mecca, retracing the Prophet Muhammad’s journey some 1,400 years ago. Over five days, the pilgrims, traveling by foot, public transport, or in private vehicles, will voyage through a mountain pass to a valley at Mina, about two miles outside Mecca. However, the pilgrimage, which has been plagued in the past by fires, hotel collapses, police clashes with protesters, and stampedes—including a 2006 incident that crushed 362 people to death—may be attacked by the regional wing of al Qaeda, according to Saudi Interior Minister Prince Nayef. And although al Qaeda has denied any such attack, the Saudi Arabian military is ready to defend against it.
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