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FILE PHOTO: Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud meets with Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli, in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, August 24, 2017. Bandar Algaloud/Courtesy of Saudi Royal Court/Handout via REUTERS


MECCA, Saudi Arabia (Reuters) - Saudi King Salman, receiving dignitaries attending the annual Muslim haj pilgrimage, said on Saturday the kingdom had made progress in eradicating terrorism aimed at attacking its holy sites, state news agency SPA reported.

Saudi Arabia, which stakes its reputation on its guardianship of Islam’s holiest sites and organising the haj, has been hit by bombings in recent years and uncovered plots to carry out attacks in Mecca.

"The limbs of terrorism have sought to harm the holy cities, paying no attention to their sanctity," SPA quoted King Salman as telling foreign dignitaries at a reception he held in Mecca, where more than 2 million pilgrims are performing haj.

"But the kingdom, by the grace of God and in cooperation with its sisters and friends, has made big successes in eradicating terrorism and has worked decisively and with determination to dry its sources," he added, without elaborating.

Salman also said Saudi Arabia had devoted all its material and human resources to ensure the safety of pilgrims who come from all over the world to perform the five-day ritual, a religious duty to be undertaken once in a lifetime by every able-bodied Muslim who can afford the journey.

"We are determined, with God's permission, to continue to provide the highest level of services for the two holy mosques ... to ensure the safety of those who seek the sacred house of God," he said.

The pilgrimage has frequently been hit by stampedes and fires. In the most recent incident, hundreds of pilgrims were killed in a crush two years ago.

(Writing by Sami Aboudi; Editing by Greg Mahlich)

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