RIYADH: Saudi Arabia raised $16.5bn from Muslim pilgrimages this year to Makkah and Madinah in the west of the kingdom, a Saudi newspaper reported yesterday. Al Hayat, citing religious tourism sources, said a total of 12 million pilgrims visited Islam’s holiest sites during the annual Haj which took place this year at the end of October or for the year-long Umrah, or minor pilgrimage.The pilgrims - including 3.1 million who made the Haj, including 1.7 million from abroad, according to official figures - spent SR62bn ($16.5bn), a rise of 10 percent over 2011 because of increased costs, it said.
Pakistani drugs smuggler beheaded
RIYADH: Saudi Arabia yesterday beheaded a Pakistani national convicted of trying to smuggle drugs into the kingdom, the interior ministry announced. Mnawar Khan was arrested at King Khaled International airport in Riyadh as he was trying to “smuggle... an amount of heroin found in his body,” said a ministry statement carried by the official SPA news agency. He was beheaded by the sword in the capital Riyadh, it said. The execution brings to 63 the number of people put to death in Saudi Arabia so far this year.
Fugitive VP’s guards sentenced to death
BAGHDAD: Two guards of vice president Tareq Al Hashemi were yesterday sentenced by an Iraqi court to death for planting a roadside bomb, at a hearing boycotted by defence lawyers who said it was unfair. Hashemi, a top Sunni official and a prominent critic of Shia Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki, has himself being handed four death sentences in absentia. He dismisses the charges against he and his staff as politically-motivated. Yesterday’s rulings follow death sentences for six other bodyguards at a hearing on Tuesday. Defence lawyers stayed away from both trials to protest what they alleged were pre-arranged verdicts.
Emirates could order 100 Boeing 777
DUBAI: Dubai-based Emirates is likely to order 100 Boeing 777s if the US plane manufacturer upgrades its design, the airline’s chief Tim Clark said yesterday on the website of Arabian Business magazine. Emirates “is likely to order 100 planes or more from Boeing if the plane manufacturer upgrades the design of the wide-body 777 with a newer model,” said Clark. “If Boeing produced the airplane that we want, I can see easily that figure, bearing in mind that we’ve ordered 175 of them,” he told the magazine.
Iran hints at delay in N plant’s operation
DUBAI: Iran’s first nuclear power plant will become fully operational by early 2013, its energy minister was quoted as saying, more than two months after Russia said it was up and running normally following decades of delay. The plant near the town of Bushehr on Iran’s Gulf coast is a symbol of what Tehran says is its peaceful nuclear ambitions. The West suspects the Islamic Republic is seeking to develop a nuclear weapons capability and imposed tough sanctions on it.Agencies