Mecca on Alert As Hajj Begins

Mecca on Alert As Hajj BeginsMecca on Alert As Hajj Begins

As the number of Muslim pilgrims traveling to Mecca for the hajj continues to grow by the millions, Saudi Arabian authorities step up their safety and security measures. There is a long list of potential threats they need to take precaution against, but this year, Saudi officials are on alert against a new threat: ISIS militants and offshoot groups inspired by them.

As the beginning of the annual Muslim pilgrimage approaches, the Saudi government is teaming with an American-led coalition to bomb targets in nearby Iraq and Syria that are under control of the extremist group ISIS or ISIL.

Saudi authorities have dispatched 60,000 security officers around hajj sites. They are also using hundreds of surveillance cameras with facial-recognition technology, as well as electronic scanners for the permits all hajj participants are required to carry, to detect unregistered pilgrims, according to Saudi reports.

The country has contracted with G4S -- a British-Danish security firm with an office in Jeddah, the large regional capital on the Red Sea near Mecca and Medina -- to look after pilgrims’ safety, Al Arabiya News reported.