Saudi Arabia, OIC condemn bomb attack on church in S. Philippines

Aftermath of the twim explosions at a Roman Catholic cathedral in Jolo. (Philippine military handout via AFP)
Updated 28 January 2019
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Saudi Arabia, OIC condemn bomb attack on church in S. Philippines

  • At least 20 people were killed and more than 80 injured in the twin bombings on Jolo island
  • The attack came days after the ratification of a law expanding self-rule in Muslim-majority areas in the south

MANILA/JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia and the head of the world’s largest body of Muslim-majority countries has strongly condemned the bombing of a Roman Catholic church in the Philippines that killed 20 people and wounded nearly a dozen.
A source from the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed outrage at the attack, reasserting the Kingdom’s position of rejecting all forms of violence, terrorism and extremism. He extended condolences to the families of the victims and to the people of the Philippines, adding that Saudi Arabia wished a speedy recovery to all those injured in the blasts. 
In a separate statement, Yousef Al-Othaimeen the general secretary of the 57-nation Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), also expressed his “deep indignation” at Sunday’s terrorist attack.
Al-Othaimeen said the OIC firmly rejects all forms of violence, extremism and terrorism, whatever their sources or motives.
In addition to the 20 fatalities, up to 81 mostly civilian churchgoers were injured in the twin bombings on the southern island of Jolo.
The first device, placed inside the Cathedral of Our Lady of Carmel, detonated during Sunday mass. The second, placed at the entrance to the cathedral compound, went off as soldiers and emergency services responded to the first explosion.

Though no one has yet claimed responsibility for the attack, Jolo has long been plagued by the insurgent group Abu Sayyaf, considered by both the Philippine and US governments as a terrorist organization, that has carried out multiple bombings, kidnappings and beheadings in the past.

The incident comes days after the ratification of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL), which is envisioned to be a major step toward achieving lasting peace in Mindanao. 

President Duterte’s national security adviser, Hermogenes Esperon Jr., said the authorities have yet to establish if the incident is related to the Bangsamoro Organic Law.

“We have yet to establish if the two explosions are related to the all-important BOL. The BOL ends the secessionist narrative. The BOL signifies the end of war for secession. It stands for peace in Mindanao,” Esperon said.

“The perpetrators are mass murderers. They are extremist criminals. We will not allow them to spoil the preference of the people for peace,” he added while giving assurance that security forces are working to secure Sulu and the rest of Bangsamoro Autonomous Region.

“Peace must prevail over war,” he stressed.

Following the incident, the Coast Guard has directed its district stations particularly in BOL-covered areas to enhance security measures of their facilities and ports and terminals to prevent a similar attack.

On Jan. 24, government forces seized a jungle camp of Daesh-inspired extremists in Lanao Del Sur after 10 hours of heavy fighting with remnants of the Maute Group believed to be led by Owaidah Marohombsar, alias “Abu Dar.” Three members of Marohombsar’s group were killed and three soldiers were wounded.

 

Expanded Muslim autonomy

In its statement, the OIC welcomed the ratification of the BOL, which provides expanded autonomy for the region’s minority Muslims in hopes of ending nearly five decades of a separatist rebellion that has left 150,000 people dead.

“Yes” votes won by landslide in most parts of the present Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, particularly Maguindanao, Lanao Del Sur, and Tawi-Tawi.

Sulu province, of which Jolo island is located, however, rejected the BOL. Reports indicate a low turnout of voters, particularly in Jolo, during the plebiscite amid fears that violence could erupt.

(With AP)


Gruelling Dakar Rally route through Saudi Arabia’s ‘captivating’ deserts revealed by Sports Authority

Updated 25 April 2019
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Gruelling Dakar Rally route through Saudi Arabia’s ‘captivating’ deserts revealed by Sports Authority

AL-QADDIYA: More details about the Dakar Rally expected to take place in January 2020 in Saudi Arabia were released on Thursday by the Kingdom's General Sports Authority at an event in Al-Qaddiya.

The race starts on Jan. 5 in Jeddah, with the drivers set to race through Al-Madinah, Tabuk and Ha’il regions before a having a rest day in Riyadh. From the capital, the route winds its way back toward the coast through the Asir region and ends in the city of Al-Qaddiya on Jan. 12.

Speaking at the event, the chairman of the General Sports Authority (GSA) Prince Abdul Aziz bin Turki Al-Faisal announced a 10-year partnership with the Dakar Rally, saying: "We want the world to see the captivating desert of Saudi Arabia and to get to know the good and hospitable people of the Kingdom that looks forward to receiving the world.

“Our country is extremely passionate about sport and our strategic goal is to feed that appetite as we move further towards achieving Vision 2030 of which sport is a basic pillar.

“In hosting Dakar Rally we aim to produce an unbelievable and unforgettable experience for drivers as they discover the beauty of Saudi nature and a unique spectacle for motorsport fans not only in Saudi Arabia but also in the region and around the world.”

It was announced earlier this month that the race would be held in Saudi Arabia, and for the first time in the Middle East.

The Dakar has been held in South America since 2009. The gruelling multi-stage rally was previously held in Africa but was relocated after terrorist threats in Mauritania in 2008.

Prince Khalid Bin Sultan Abdullah Al-Faisal, chairman of the Saudi Arabian Motor Federation, said when the race announcement was made: “I have always wanted to participate in Dakar Rally, while I wasn’t fortunate to achieve that ambition, I’m now part of achieving a much bigger dream for my country as Dakar comes to the Middle East region for the first time ever.”

CEO of Qiddiya project Michael Reininger said: "Qiddiya will soon become the centre of the motorsports world by virtue of an unparalleled collection of on track and off road facilities and a set of experiences and events that have never been assembled in one place before.”

The CEO of the rally's organizing company, Amaury Sport Organization, Yann Le Moenner thanked the princes for their commitment to bringing the rally to Saudi Arabia, adding: “Crossing the best deserts of the world has always been in the DNA of the Dakar, to discover and share.”

Meanwhile, the drivers involved in the rally have been in Saudi Arabia soaking up local culture and experiencing some of the desert landscapes they will drive through in January.