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Saudi Arabia issues e-bracelets for hajj pilgrims after deadly 2015 stampede

Saudi Arabia has reportedly started issuing special e-bracelets to the members of the annual Hajj pilgrimage which is to start on Friday. The measure was introduced to avoid the repetition of the deadly 2015 stampede at the religious event which killed over 2,400 people.

The ID bracelet is made of plasticized paper and carries a bar code which can be scanned by a smartphone, the Saudi vice secretary of the ministry of hajj and umrah, Issa Rawas, told AFP. He added that the bracelet carries the identity and nationality of each pilgrim as well as his place of lodging in Mecca.

The authorities may also learn about the pilgrim’s delegation and his visa details, the official added.

"The aim is to equip all pilgrims" from abroad, he said, however, without specifying the exact number of bracelets which have been issued.

Rawas added that some 1.4 million pilgrims are expected to come for the holy festival.
AFP reported seeing many pilgrims wearing such bracelets near the Great Mosque of Mecca.

According to Nabil Melhem, 61, a Palestinian bricklayer from the Israeli-occupied West Bank, the bracelet costs some two riyals (53 cents).

It is "like a passport," Melhem said. "If we get lost, if we die, if we are sick or unable to talk, they can contact our delegation, thanks to the bracelet.”

Drissa Conakry, a Nigerian pilgrim, said that hotel staff "put this bracelet on us as soon as we arrived."

"I tell myself that, at least, I am identified,” Conakry added.

The information that e-bracelets would be introduced during 2016 hajj pilgrimage appeared in media in June this year. The official Saudi Press Agency (SPA) said that they would be water-resistant and contain personal and medical information.

Hajj, annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca, must be carried out at least once in the life of each Muslim. This year the pilgrimage starts September 9 and will last till September 14.

Hajj celebrations last year turned into mass stampede which killed more than 2,400 people, according to the Associated Press estimates.

The tragedy took place September 24 near an exit from a monorail train station that was close to the tent camps accommodating thousands of pilgrims who had come for the five-day celebration of Islam’s second-biggest holiday, Eid Al-Ahda.

Iran was most affected by the tragedy with at least 464 deaths. Mali said it lost 305 people, while Nigeria lost 274. At least 190 pilgrims from Egypt were killed.

The previous record for deaths dates back to 1990, when 1,426 people were killed in a stampede inside a pedestrian tunnel leading out of Mecca towards Mina.

Top Saudi Imam Calls for Killing Shia, Jews, Christians in Prayer Broadcast

Video of a daily prayer service at the Saudi Arabian Masjid al-Ḥarām, the largest mosque in the world, reveals a top Saudi imam calling for the killing of Shia Muslims, Jews, and Christians. This as the West continues to send billions of dollars worth of military aid to Riyadh.

Masjid al-Ḥarām, also known as the Sacred Mosque, or the Great Mosque of Mecca, surrounds the holiest place in Islam, the Kabba, in the city of Mecca. It is the center toward which Muslims globally pray, and the primary destination for pilgrimages.

“O Allah, grant victory, dignity and empowerment to our brothers Mujahideen (Jihadists) in Yemen,” the imam sings in Arabic. “In Sham (Syria), and Iraq, and everywhere. O Lords of the Worlds grant them victory over the godless Rafidah (Shia Muslims).”

The prayer was broadcast live on Egyptian TV channel Al-Qahera Wal Nas.

“Grant them victory over the treacherous Jews, and over the spiteful Christians, and over the untrusted hypocrites,” the imam intones. “O Allah, grant them victory, help and strength.”

Meanwhile, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir appeared on CNN on Tuesday, lecturing Syria on human rights, as Riyadh continues to bomb civilians and hospitals in Yemen.

On August 15, at least 11 people were killed and 19 injured in a Saudi-led airstrike that destroyed a Doctors Without Borders hospital. The week prior there were attacks on a food processing plant and a school.

Since 2010, after then-US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton received a large donation from the Saudi government, the US authorized a record $60 billion in military sales to the nation. Over $48 billion in weapon sales have already been made. This is more than triple the $16 billion authorized under George W. Bush.

In 2015 the Saudi government received permission to buy hundreds of air-defense missiles for $5.4 billion in September, four military ships for $11.25 billion in October, and 22,000 smart and general-purpose bombs for $1.29 billion in November, according to Reuters. Earlier this month, the Obama Administration proposed the sale of another $1.15 billion in tanks, machine guns and other US military equipment to Saudi Arabia, leaving many lawmakers asking who the regime would kill with the weaponry.

"Saudi Arabia is an unreliable ally with a poor human rights record," Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), told Reuters. "We should not rush to sell them advanced arms and promote an arms race in the Middle East. I will work with a bipartisan coalition to explore forcing a vote on blocking this sale."

House representative Ted Lieu (D-CA) of California is also vocally opposing arms sales to the kingdom.

Massachusetts Representative Jim McGovern (D-MA) called the arms deal “the last thing the US should do.”

"Saudi Arabia's dangerous and reckless use of cluster munitions and other weapons has already harmed and killed countless innocent civilians. The last thing the United States should do is sell them more than a billion dollars' worth of additional arms and military equipment," he says.

Congress will have a 30-day window to block the sale after reconvening from a summer break next month.

Iran May Start Production of Supersonic Cruise Missiles in Near Future

Iranian Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan said that Iran had succeeded in producing rapid vessels and had taken effective steps to make torpedoes and submarines.

MOSCOW (Sputnik) — Tehran has made great progress in the field of maritime cruise missiles' development and can begin producing models with supersonic speed in the near future, Iranian Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan said Sunday.

He noted that Iran had also succeeded in producing rapid vessels and had taken effective steps to make torpedoes and submarines.

Earlier in the day, Dehghan along with President Hassan Rouhani unveiled the country's long-awaited air defense missile system with characteristics similar to Russia’s S-300.
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