Medina, Saudi Arabia (ANTARA) - Saudi Arabian authorities detained 24 Indonesian pilgrims on Tuesday after they failed to show valid Hajj visa documents, an Indonesian Hajj Management Committee (PPIH) official for the Bir Ali area informed.

The pilgrims were detained after they took miqat at Dhu'l-Hulayfah Mosque, which is located about nine kilometers from Medina or about 450 kilometers from Mecca, head of the PPIH-Bir Ali Sector, Aziz Hegemur, said on Wednesday.

The Dhu'l-Hulayfah Mosque, which is also known by Indonesian Hajj pilgrims as Bir Ali Mosque, is the miqat for the city of Medina's residents and those approaching the holy city of Mecca from Medina's direction.

Miqat means a place outside Mecca that Muslim pilgrims are prohibited to cross before they are in the sacred state or ihram if they are willing to perform Umrah or Hajj at Masjidil Haram Grand Mosque.

According to Hegemur, the 24 Indonesian pilgrims reached Dhu'l-Hulayfah Mosque by bus at 12 noon local time on Tuesday.

Shortly after the congregational zuhur (daily midday prayer) ended, a PPIH official approached the pilgrims, who hurriedly returned to their bus. The official was aware that on that day there was no scheduled arrival of Indonesian Hajj pilgrims from Medina at the mosque.

Therefore, the PPIH official questioned the pilgrims about it. They told him that they belonged to a "Furoda Hajj" group, or those who have received special invitations from the Saudi government during the Hajj season, Hegemur said.

Since the "Furoda Hajj" group is not a part of Indonesia's Hajj quota, the PPIH official decided to let them go without questioning them further about their travel documents, he added.

However, shortly after letting their bus go, the PPIH official came to know that "Masyariq" officers who have the authority to check pilgrims' visa documents at the Bir Ali checkpoint had found that they were just Umrah visa holders, he said.

The pilgrims were therefore detained by Saudi police officers. "We do not know whether they remain under police custody or have been released," he added.

Referring to the case, he repeated his call for Indonesian Muslims to not go to Saudi Arabia during the Hajj season to perform Hajj without valid Hajj visa documents.

For this year's Hajj season, Indonesia secured a pilgrim quota of 241 thousand through an agreement reached with the Saudi government on January 8, 2024.

The total figure comprises 221 thousand people making the pilgrimage under the initial quota and 20 thousand pilgrims under the additional quota approved by the King of Saudi Arabia.

The additional quota was secured by President Joko Widodo during a bilateral meeting with Saudi Arabian Prime Minister Mohammed bin Salman al-Saud in October 2023.

Related news: Garuda Indonesia apologizes for delays in Hajj flights
Related news: Ministry invites public to use 'Kawal Haji' app
Related news: "Hanging around" after night prayers makes Medina feel like Indonesia

Translator: Asep F, Rahmad Nasution
Editor: Atman Ahdiat
Copyright © ANTARA 2024