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CENTCOM

NEWS RELEASE
HEADQUARTERS UNITED STATES CENTRAL COMMAND
7115 South Boundary Boulevard
MacDill AFB, Fla. 33621-5101
Phone: (813) 827-5894; FAX: (813) 827-2211; DSN 651-5894

January 20, 2004
Release Number: 04-01-51


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE


IRAQI BORDER OPEN TO ALL PILGRIMS DURING HAJJ

RAMADI, Iraq- For the first time in more than three decades, Iraqis are able to participate in the Hajj pilgrimage without preferential oversight from the former regime.

The Hajj Pilgrimage occurs annually and constitutes one of the Five Pillars of Islam. The ritual journey to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, is an important event in the life of Muslims, both those actually traveling and those who hope to do so within their lifetime.

Task Force "All American" soldiers have been quietly assisting the Iraqi security forces who have taken the lead the efforts to facilitate the safe travel of the Hajj pilgrims. Over the past two days, more than 2,400 Iraqis have crossed the Iraqi border at Ar Ar into Saudi Arabia to participate in the Hajj.

Iraqi border guards and customs agents are operating the Ar Ar border crossing and managing traffic into Saudi Arabia. Iraqi Civil Defense Corps troops have been actively involved in the security of the routes and rest areas with additional support from Red Crescent volunteers, who have been integral in providing support for the travelers.






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