November 9, 2010
Seventeen northern Virginia residents are on their way to the hajj, the annual Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca, after their passports were seized temporarily by U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
Leaders of the Dar AlNoor mosque in Manassas say the travelers planned the trip to Saudi Arabia for months and used a California travel agency to arrange their tickets and get the visas for their passports.
The passports were supposed to have been delivered last Tuesday but never arrived. By the time they were released by federal authorities Saturday, the travelers had missed their flight.
Rafi Uddin Ahmed, vice president of the mosque, says the customs agency agreed to buy them replacement tickets leaving Monday night at a cost of $34,000. A customs agency spokesman declined to comment on the specific case.