Saudi rams car into Makkah's Grand Mosque

Updated 31 Oct 2020

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This file aerial view taken on July 31, 2020, shows pilgrims circumambulating (Tawaf Al-Ifada) around the Kaaba, in the Grand Mosque in Saudi Arabia's holy city of Makkah. — AFP
This file aerial view taken on July 31, 2020, shows pilgrims circumambulating (Tawaf Al-Ifada) around the Kaaba, in the Grand Mosque in Saudi Arabia's holy city of Makkah. — AFP

A Saudi man rammed a car at high speed into the outer walls of Makkah's Grand Mosque, Islam's holiest site, authorities said on Saturday.

Guards chased the driver as he crashed through two barriers before hitting one of the southern entrances of the mosque late on Friday, according to officials in the holy city and videos on social media.

Makkah authorities did not name the man but said he appeared to be in an “abnormal condition”. He was referred to the public prosecutor to face possible charges, they added.

Earlier in October, Saudi Arabia opened the Grand Mosque for prayers for the first time in seven months, and expanded the Umrah pilgrimage to accommodate 15,000 worshippers from within the kingdom as it relaxed coronavirus curbs.

Umrah — a Muslim pilgrimage that can be undertaken at any time — had been suspended in March due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The limit on Umrah will be raised to 20,000 from Sunday, when authorities will allow pilgrims from abroad.

Saudi Arabia hosted the annual Haj pilgrimage in late July, on the smallest scale in modern history. Only up to 10,000 Muslim residents of the country were allowed to take part, a far cry from the 2.5 million who participated last year.