Officials Cite Iraq’s Successful Completion of Hajj Pilgrimage
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jan. 8, 2008 U.S. military and diplomatic officials in Iraq today congratulated the Iraqi government and its citizens for the successful completion of travel for the recently concluded Hajj religious pilgrimage.
More than 30,000 Iraqis safely traveled to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, and returned home as part of the Hajj, an annual visitation of various Islamic holy sites, according to news releases issued today by the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, Multinational Force Iraq and Multinational Corps Iraq.
“The government of Iraq, working with coalition forces, developed the successful security plan,” a joint U.S. Embassy Baghdad-Multinational Force Iraq news release stated. “Iraqi security forces then led the implementation of the plan, which included organizing the visa process, screening travelers gathered at assembly points, and managing the flow of pilgrims through several airports, countless bus routes, and two major ports of entry.”
Iraqi Hajj travelers used several ports of entry during the annual pilgrimage held from Dec. 11 through Jan. 7. In preparation for this year’s pilgrimage, the Mosul airport was reopened to commercial air passengers for the first time since 1993.
“The peaceful travel for thousands of pilgrims from Iraq to Mecca provides another sign of the continuing rejection of violence by the Iraqi people,” Army Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, commander of Multinational Corps Iraq, stated in the release. “While much work lies ahead, the will of the people to go about their normal activities and do so in a peaceful manner is an important step forward.”
The U.S. Embassy release also cited “the effective use of air travel in and out of (Iraqi) airports in Baghdad, Basra, Irbil, Sulaymaniya and Mosul.”
“The successful Hajj marks yet another successful milestone for the government of Iraq and the citizens it serves,” the U.S. Embassy release continued. “In the New Year, we look forward to building on the progress we have made together in 2007.”