During the exercise on Oct. 17, hundreds of troops demonstrated skills
in riot control and counter-insurgency. Squads were sent into Mecca's Grand
Mosque to operate against mock insurgency squads as well as Muslim
Another scenario envisioned an insurgency takeover of a building in the
huge mosque compound. Officials said the exercise, which sought to draw
lessons from the brief takeover of the mosque in 1979, called for hostage
negotiations followed by the storming and destruction of the building.
Officials said at least two million Muslims would attend the Haj. They
said a key concern has been the infiltration of insurgents as well as
migrants from the surrounding Gulf region.
"We have deployed 400 officers to monitor and stop those who try to
sneak into the Haj zone through desert roads," Al Arfaj said.
The Saudi commander said his forces would operate on the ground and in
the air. He said reconnaissance would focus on the desert roads to Mecca.
"We have set up checkpoints at all entrances to Mecca," Al Arfaj said.
"This will prevent the entry of those who do not possess valid Haj permits
and reduce the number of illegal pilgrims."