MINA  - Millions of Muslims flocked to the Saudi holy city of Mina on Friday and pelted stones on the pillars representing Satan.

Massive crowds performed the devil-stoning rite which will also continue on Saturday or Sunday. Worshippers from 189 countries swarmed to Mina since the early hours of the day.

Roads inside Mina and those leading to the city were choked with pilgrims walking on foot to reach the camps set up to receive them according to their country of origin.

The pilgrims had stopped to collect stones overnight in Muzdalifah, another holy town that comes to life only during the five days of the annual Haj.

Men and women were seen bending to the ground in Muzdalifah choosing their stones which they carried in empty water bottles or plastic bags. The stones must be slightly bigger than a chick pea.

“God is greatest, God is greatest, no God but Allah,” bellowed loudspeakers in Mina as pilgrims repeated after them.

The stay in Mina used to mark the most dangerous phase of Haj for Saudi authorities as it was marred by deadly stampedes in the past as well as fires in tent camps.

In past years, however, tents have been fire-proofed while gas canisters and cooking are banned in the camps. The stoning area has been expanded to avoid overcrowding.