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Last Updated: Saturday January 22 2005 14:21 GMT

Final day of Muslim Hajj festival

Hajj pilgrims camp in Mina, near Mecca
Tens of thousands of Muslims have taken part in the final part of the annual Hajj festival in Saudi Arabia.

Worshippers threw stones at three pillars which represent the devil before heading to Mecca to circle the black cubical Kaaba seven times.

They have until sundown on Saturday to complete the ritual.

A record 2.56 million pilgrims are taking part in the Hajj, half a million more than the previous high, set in 2003, the Interior Ministry said.

In 2004 291 Hajj pilgrims were killed in Mina when crowds got out of control and some people got trampled.

Saudi authorities have now made it easier to get to the pillars so fewer people should be hurt.

All Muslims who are fit and healthy and can afford the trip are expected to perform Hajj at least once during their lifetime.

It can be an exhausting journey for many pilgrims, some of whom have travelled on foot and slept in the open air.

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