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Afghan, Coalition Troops Assist Afghans Departing on Hajj Journey

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 11, 2005 – Coalition and Afghan forces are helping Afghan civilians prepare for and depart on the annual Hajj religious journey.

Islam calls on all Muslims who are able to journey to the holy city of Medina, in Saudi Arabia, once in their lifetimes.

A group of 148 Afghans began the journey on Dec. 7 from Kandahar Airfield, in southern Afghanistan. Participants assembled at a stadium in downtown Kandahar with assistance from Afghan National Police officers and then rode buses to the airport, where Afghan border police provided security. So far about 500 Hajj participants have departed from Kandahar, with about 3,000 more expected over a two-week period, officials said.

Coalition troops gave each traveler a bag that contained a prayer rug, a towel, a thermos, razors, shaving cream and other personal-hygiene items.

"It's an honor and a privilege for coalition forces to support those Afghans making this important journey," U.S. Army Lt. Col. Jerry O'Hara, public affairs officer for the coalition's Combined Joint Task Force 76, said.

(From a Combined Forces Command Afghanistan news release.)

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