Saudi Arabia denounces terrorist stabbing attacks in Russia and Finland

Memorial cards, candles and flowers for the victims of Friday's stabbings are placed on the Market Square in Turku, Finland, on August 19, 2017. (Lehtikuva/Vesa Moilanen/via REUTERS)
Updated 20 August 2017
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Saudi Arabia denounces terrorist stabbing attacks in Russia and Finland

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia on Sunday strongly condemned the stabbing attacks that took place in Russia's far northern city of Surgut and the Finnish city of Turku, killing and wounding a number of people.
A statement carried by the Saudi Press Agency (SPA), quoting an official source at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said the Kingdom offers its "condolences to the families of the victims and to the government and people of the Russian Federation and the Republic of Finland, wishing a speedy recovery to the wounded."
The official source reaffirmed the Kingdom's solidarity with the friendly countries against terrorism and extremism.
The Daesh international terrorist network has claimed responsibility for the attack in Russia, in which a man stabbed seven people before being shot dead by police.
“The executor of the stabbing operation in the city of Surgut in Russia is a soldier of the Islamic State,” Daesh propaganda outlet Amaq said in a statement, after the jihadists also claimed responsibility for twin attacks in Spain that left 14 dead.
In the Finland case, a Moroccan asylum-seeker was arrested after he went on a knife rampage on Friday night, killing two women and wounding six others. Police shot the suspect in the leg before his arrest.
Police said the 18-year-old suspect arrived in Finland last year.
Police also arrested four other Moroccan men over possible links to him and issued an international arrest warrant for a sixth Moroccan, they said.
The stabbing spree occurred on Friday afternoon in the main market place in Turku, on the southwest coast of the country, 160 kilometers from Helsinki.
“First thing we heard was a young woman, screaming like crazy. I thought it’s just kids having fun ... but then people started to move around and I saw a man with a knife in his hand, stabbing a woman,” said Laura Laine, who was sitting in a cafe.
“Then a person ran toward us shouting ‘He has a knife’, and everybody from the terrace ran inside. Next, a woman came in to the cafe. She was crying hysterically, down on her knees, saying someone’s neck has been slashed open.”
Four of the wounded were still in hospital, three of them in intensive care, while the other injured persons would be sent home on Saturday, the hospital said.

Muslim community voice concern
Turku’s Iraqi, Syrian and Islamic community condemned the attacks and organized a rally of solidarity in the city’s main square, but decided to cancel it due to security concerns.
“Finns and immigrants, and people from different religions, have had very good relations in Turku... We are shocked, but I don’t see this changing that,” said Abdirahman Mohamed, chairman of the Islamic community of Turku.
He said the Moroccan suspects were not familiar to him or to the Islamic community in town, which has around 2,000 members.


Saudi Arabia greets 1.68m pilgrims, passport chief reveals

Maj. Gen. Sulaiman bin Abdul Aziz Al-Yahya speaks in Jeddah on Wednesday. (SPA)
Updated 16 August 2018
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Saudi Arabia greets 1.68m pilgrims, passport chief reveals

  • The Ministry of Interior has been working hard every year to make Hajj successful and easy by using technology to facilitate Hajj permits
  • The number of pilgrims increases annually which is a good sign of a successful Hajj

JEDDAH: More than 1.68 million Hajj pilgrims had arrived in the Kingdom by noon on Thursday, the General Directorate of Passports announced.
Maj. Gen. Sulaiman bin Abdul Aziz Al-Yahya, director general of passports, told a press conference: “Up to this moment, our air, land and sea checkpoints have warmly received 1,684,629 pilgrims from different countries of the world.”
According to Al-Yahya, 1,584,085 pilgrims have arrived by air, 84,381 entered the country via land crossing points, and 16,163 came by sea.
“Under close supervision by the minister of interior, Prince Abdul Aziz bin Saud bin Naif, and a daily follow-up by the Makkah governor, Prince Khaled Al-Faisal, we had an early plan to efficiently receive Hajj worshippers. For that reason, we have all qualified personnel and modern technology available for their service so that the arrival process is done in a short time as possible,” he said.
Al-Yahya said that well-trained staff members were present to prevent lawbreakers from entering the holy sites.
“The role of these workers is to take hold of law violators and impose penalties on them. They are working 24 hours a day. For example, a driver who illegally transports pilgrims into Makkah will be fined SR10,000 ($2,600) for every passenger he is caught transporting,” Al-Yahya said.
The violation would also bring a 15-day jail sentence.
“When the same violator commits the same felony, a SR25,000 fine will be imposed for every passenger he is carrying, in addition to two months in jail. Third-time offenders will spend six months in jail and will have to pay a fine of SR50,000,” he said.
He said that about 18 drivers have been detained following violations. Punishments will vary since some were caught using relatives’ cars.
Al-Yahya said a pilgrims’ departure plan was in place to assist worshippers in departing for their countries after their rituals have been completed.
Al-Yahya highlighted the contribution of women in the passports system during Hajj.
“We have 107 women officials working at the King Abdul Aziz International Airport. There are others in different locations, such as Prince Mohammed bin Abdul Aziz International Airport in Madinah, where 58 female agents are working.”
Al-Yahya said that the directorate is using the latest technology to counter passport counterfeiting, a growing problem around the world.
He praised the Makkah Route project, saying pilgrims had been able to enter the Kingdom with minimal delay and without complications.
Pilgrims on this route took no more than 35 minutes to leave their flights and board buses for the holy city.
“Even on their way to Makkah, they don’t need to stop at checkpoints,” he said.

‘Makkah Road’ pilgrims
Thursday morning saw the arrival in Saudi Arabia of the final flights of this year’s “Makkah Road” initiative. The project, which was implemented this year, has seen 103,057 pilgrims arrive to perform Hajj on 240 flights from Kuala Lumpur and Jakarta to Jeddah and Madinah.
Al-Yahya said that the initiative has been a huge success, and represents just one of many projects that the Supreme Hajj Committee is developing under the direction of Prince Abdul Aziz bin Saud bin Naif.