How Saudi Arabia debunked the ideology of extremism, defeated terrorism

How Saudi Arabia debunked the ideology of extremism, defeated terrorism
A fire ball and vehicles are seen as Saudi special force units attached to the Ministry of Interior train in al-Haytheiyah, 100 kms north of Riyadh, on June 9, 2010. (File/AFP)
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Updated 11 September 2021

How Saudi Arabia debunked the ideology of extremism, defeated terrorism

How Saudi Arabia debunked the ideology of extremism, defeated terrorism
  • Faced with a rash of attacks, the Kingdom went on the offensive, defeating extremists both militarily and ideologically
  • Saudi Arabia’s counterterrorism effort sends a clear message: Islam has nothing to do with terrorism and terrorism has no religion

JEDDAH: “We will not spend 30 years of our lives dealing with extremist ideologies. We will destroy them today and immediately.” Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman made this seminal commitment at an investment conference in Riyadh in October 2017.

The remark was not meant for mere media consumption; it established a new roadmap for dealing with extremist ideologies that, in recent decades, have menaced the world in general and Saudi Arabia in particular.




Saudi special force units attached to the Ministry of Interior are seen training in al-Haytheiyah, 100 kms north of Riyadh, on June 9, 2010. (File/AFP)

With the US preparing to mark the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, now is as good a time as any to recall Saudi Arabia’s exploits in the fight against terrorism and the ideology of Islamic extremism. For, as Prince Turki Al-Faisal, the former Saudi ambassador to the US and intelligence chief, said during a panel discussion in Washington, D.C. in 2016, “Saudi Arabia is a victim of terrorism as much as the United States, and by the same terrorist groups.”

 

The first of the terrorist attacks was the Juhayman incident — or the siege of the Grand Mosque in Makkah — in 1979. A group of several hundred militants led by Juhayman Al-Otaibi stormed the mosque, the holiest site in Islam, took hundreds of innocent pilgrims hostages and turned the structure into a battleground before they were overpowered by commandos. More than 250 people were killed and another 560 injured in the two-week standoff.

In 1987, Iranian pilgrims inspired by the revolutionary ideology of the regime in Tehran clashed with security forces in Makkah during the Hajj pilgrimage, leading to more than 400 deaths. This deepened the commitment of Saudi Arabia’s rulers to eradicating radicalism and protecting the Kingdom from terrorist attacks and extremist ideology.

Next it was the turn of the Saudi capital to experience terror first hand. In November 1995, a massive car bomb went off in front of a residential building belonging to the Saudi National Guard. Five Americans and two Indian nationals died in the attack, and dozens of others of different nationalities were wounded.




An image grab taken off the Saudi news channel Al-Ekhbaria 23 June 2006, shows footage of the scene of a shootout in Riyadh 23 June 2006 between Saudi security forces and Al-Qaeda activists overnight. (File/AFP)

The bombing was carried out by four young Saudi men who had been influenced by the speeches of Al-Qaeda leaders in Afghanistan and the ideas of the Kingdom’s Sahwa movement.

The Sahwa, or “awakening” movement, was led by extremist clerics influenced by the Muslim Brotherhood. Less than a year later, in May 1996, the men responsible for the bombing were executed. But other extremist cells were busy hatching plots. On June 25, 1996, the city of Alkhobar, in the Eastern Province, was struck by a massive bomb.

The terrorists targeted the Khobar Towers, an eight-story building occupied by American airmen and soldiers. The attack killed 19 members of the US Air Force as well as a Saudi citizen, and wounded 498 residents of different nationalities.




Saudi Arabia’s counterterrorism effort sends a clear message: Islam has nothing to do with terrorism and terrorism has no religion. (File/AFP)

It was later established that the attackers had ties to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. One of them, Ahmed Al-Mughassil, had fled after the bombing to Iran and then to Lebanon. Saudi authorities managed to arrest him in Beirut in August 2015, according to reports.

After 1996, seven years passed before Al-Qaeda, the terrorist group led by Osama bin Laden, began a series of operations against Saudi Arabia — on May 12, 2003. The most prominent of these was the bombing of three residential complexes in Riyadh — Dorrat Al-Jadawel, Al-Hamra Oasis Village, and Vinnell Corporation — using four car bombs.  The coordinated attacks left 39 people dead.

Seven months later, extremists also inspired by Al-Qaeda carried out bombings at Al-Muhaya near Riyadh in November 2003, killing 17 and wounding 122. On April 21, 2004, a suicide car bomber blew up the General Security building in Riyadh, the headquarters of the domestic anti-terrorism effort, and killed at least 10 people.




In 2018, the Presidency of State Security said that over the previous 21 years, 863 terrorist operations had been carried out in Saudi Arabia. (Supplied)

The collective toll has been massive. In 2018, the Presidency of State Security said that over the previous 21 years, 863 terrorist operations had been carried out in Saudi Arabia, out of a total of 1,096 planned. The number of victims was 3,007, while 333 security officers lost their lives, 695 terrorists were killed and another 346 were wounded.

The PSS also listed the firearms and explosives it had seized: 4,529 weapons of varying types, 450 homemade bombs, three SAM-7 surface-to-air missiles, 374 rocket propelled grenades, 241 explosive belts and 47 tons of military-grade explosives.

INNUMBERS

* 1,096 Terrorist plots against Saudi Arabia.

* 863 Terrorist attacks recorded.

* 233 Terrorist attacks prevented.

* 3,007 Victims of terrorist attacks.

* 333 Saudi security officers killed in attacks.

* 695 Terrorists eliminated.

* 4,529 Weapons seized.

* 450 Hand-made bombs seized.

* 3 SAM-7 missiles seized.

* 374 RPGs seized.

* 241 explosive belts seized.

* 47 Tons of explosives seized.

* 22 Plots against Saudi interests and diplomatic missions abroad.

What amounted to a fierce war prompted Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to move forward with a campaign against extremism, terrorism and associated ideology. Subsequently the Kingdom took a series of steps that contributed to eliminating terrorist operations locally and to exposing and combating extremist ideology internationally.

Earlier, the Kingdom announced on Dec. 15, 2015, that it was setting up the Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition (IMCTC), an alliance grouping opponents of extremism. The initiative aimed to combat terrorism in all its forms, no matter the sect or its name, according to the statement announcing the coalition.




Faced with a rash of attacks, the Kingdom went on the offensive, defeating extremists both militarily and ideologically. (File/AFP)

The IMCTC brings together 41 Muslim countries which participate in a joint planning and decision-making process. The coalition mans a joint operations room based in Riyadh which works to combat extremist ideology and coordinates efforts to confront terrorist planning and execution.

Saudi Arabia has not stopped with the creation of the IMCTC. On April 30, 2017, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman established and chaired the Ideological War Center, which is affiliated with the Ministry of Defense. It is tasked with fighting the roots of extremism and terrorism in addition to consolidating the concepts of the true religion.

According to Saud Al-Otaibi, an analyst and researcher in security and terrorist issues, in setting up the IMCTC Saudi Arabia sent a clear message to the world that Islam has nothing to do with terrorism and that terrorism has no religion.

Al-Otaibi pointed out that the Kingdom’s efforts have not been limited to the IMCTC. It has also set up the Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology, Etidal, inaugurated in May 2017 by King Salman, US President Donald Trump and other leaders who attended the Arab Islamic American Summit in Riyadh.




Saudi military personnel peer into the crater caused by the explosion of a fuel truck outside the northern fence of Khobar Towers on King Abdul Aziz Air Base near Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. (DoD photo)

Etidal has received $110 million in financial support. Abdul Aziz Al-Harthy, a legal adviser, told Arab News that the enactment of legislation targeting ideology is another pillar of the Saudi war on extremism.

New laws mandate monitoring of financial flows and limit the channeling of all donations through the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center, KSrelief. This deters financial support for terrorism by classifying entities and identifying people who support terrorism.

Al-Harthy pointed to a televised meeting in April 2021 when the crown prince said: “Anyone who adopts an extremist approach, even if he is not a terrorist, is a criminal who will be held accountable by law.”

Al-Harthy said: “One of the most important features that confirm the Kingdom’s determination and firmness in combating extremism is the prosecution of terrorists and bringing them to justice so that they receive a deterrent punishment for what they have committed against Islam and the state.”

Twitter: @md_sulami


Saudi environmental security officers protect sea and land ecosystems

Saudi Arabia is committed to protecting the environment and its natural resources. (Twitter: @SFES_KSA)
Saudi Arabia is committed to protecting the environment and its natural resources. (Twitter: @SFES_KSA)
Updated 33 min 1 sec ago

Saudi environmental security officers protect sea and land ecosystems

Saudi Arabia is committed to protecting the environment and its natural resources. (Twitter: @SFES_KSA)
  • Forces under interior ministry command detain poachers, illegal firewood traders in crackdown

RIYADH: The Saudi Special Forces for Environmental Security have apprehended dozens of offenders for environmental violations as part of a recent crackdown.

The forces, under the command of the Ministry of Interior, arrested individuals who illegally moved sand and soil in Jeddah and Tabuk. People who illegally entered the Imam Turki bin Abdullah Royal Reserve in northeast Riyadh and hunted wildlife in restricted areas were also detained.

Others were arrested while transporting local firewood and trafficking endangered fungi in Al-Muzahmiyya Governorate. Several other citizens were also caught selling local firewood in other regions of the Kingdom.

Saudi Arabia is committed to protecting the environment and its natural resources across its vast territory. The Saudi environment law focuses on conservation, protection, development, pollution prevention, public health protection and the rational use of natural resources.

It also aims to make environmental planning an integral part of comprehensive development in industrial, agricultural and urban areas.

One practice that harms the Saudi environment is illegal dredging. Talal S. Al-Rasheed, a consultant at Gulf Energy for Environmental Consultations, warned that dredging and similar practices can negatively impact the environment and economy if studies are not conducted beforehand. Reduced fish stocks and damage to coral reefs are major consequences of poorly planned and illegal dredging.

Al-Rasheed added that taking sand and soil without a license is a “major disaster” because it changes the nature of the land by creating deep pits that cause accidents and endanger the lives of road users.

“Because the marine environment is sensitive to its habitat, when anything changes in nature, creatures begin to shift to other locations. Some of these habitats might not suitable for living. Because of the availability of suitable places for marine organisms, every species in the marine environment has a designated place to adapt to,” Al-Rasheed said.

Nasser M. Al-Hamidi, an environmental activist, said that burning or cutting trees in natural forests for wood is harmful to the environment and local communities due to smoke pollution.

He added that any attack on the environment, including dredging and stealing natural materials such as mountain rock deposits, poses a severe threat to the Kingdom’s natural beauty, which should be preserved for future generations.


Saudi Arabia records 1 COVID-19 death, 43 new cases

Saudi Arabia records 1 COVID-19 death, 43 new cases
Updated 06 December 2021

Saudi Arabia records 1 COVID-19 death, 43 new cases

Saudi Arabia records 1 COVID-19 death, 43 new cases
  • The health ministry says 26 patients have recovered from the virus in the last 24 hours
  • More than 22.6 million people have been fully vaccinated throughout the Kingdom so far

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia confirmed one new COVID-19 related deaths on Monday, raising the total number of fatalities to 8,845.
The Ministry of Health confirmed 43 new cases reported in the Kingdom in the previous 24 hours, meaning 549,955 people have now contracted the disease. Of the total number of cases, 37 remain in critical condition.
According to the ministry, the highest number of cases were recorded in the capital Riyadh and Jeddah with 14 cases each, while Makkah confirmed three and Dhahran recorded two cases.


The health ministry also announced that 26 patients had recovered from COVID-19, bringing the total number of recoveries in the Kingdom to 539,082.
Over 47.7 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered since the Kingdom’s immunization campaign started. More than 22.6 million people have been fully vaccinated.
The coronavirus pandemic has affected over 266 million people globally and the death toll has reached around 5.27 million.


Saudi defenses intercept 3 ballistic missiles launched toward Riyadh: Arab coalition

Saudi defenses intercept 3 ballistic missiles launched toward Riyadh: Arab coalition
Updated 25 min 49 sec ago

Saudi defenses intercept 3 ballistic missiles launched toward Riyadh: Arab coalition

Saudi defenses intercept 3 ballistic missiles launched toward Riyadh: Arab coalition

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s air defenses intercepted three ballistic missiles launched toward the Kingdom, state TV reported on Monday, citing the Arab coalition.
The coalition said the missiles were targeting the capital, Riyadh, in an attempt to attack civilians and civilian objects.
“In response to the threat, we will start implementing a large-scale operation against the Houthi militia, and to protect civilians, we will strike with an iron fist, within the framework of international humanitarian law,” the coalition said in a separate statement.
The Iran-backed militia has launched several drones toward the Kingdom’s southern region since Sunday, sparking condemnation from regional countries and organizations.
The Houthis launch frequent cross-border attacks targeting populated areas, airports and oil installations, threatening global energy supplies and endangering lives.


Saudi Arabia’s King Salman sends letter to UAE president

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman sends letter to UAE president
Updated 06 December 2021

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman sends letter to UAE president

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman sends letter to UAE president
  • The message dealt with ways to develop bilateral relations
  • It was delivered by Saudi foreign minister during a meeting with Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s King Salman sent a written message to UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed, regarding their strong bilateral relations and ways to support and enhance them, Saudi Press Agency reported on Monday.
The message was delivered by Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan during a meeting with Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, UAE vice president and prime minister and ruler of Dubai.
During the reception, Prince Faisal conveyed greetings from King Salman to Sheikh Khalifa, wishing him and the Emirati people continued progress and prosperity.
Sheikh Mohammed said the UAE president expressed appreciation for the Saudi monarch, wishing him good health and wellness and the Saudi people further development and growth. 


Bahraini leaders congratulate King Salman on successful Saudi Arabian Grand Prix

Bahraini leaders congratulate King Salman on successful Saudi Arabian Grand Prix
Updated 11 sec ago

Bahraini leaders congratulate King Salman on successful Saudi Arabian Grand Prix

Bahraini leaders congratulate King Salman on successful Saudi Arabian Grand Prix
  • King Hamad praised the distinguished organization of the international sporting event

RIYADH: Bahrain’s King Hamad on Monday congratulated Saudi Arabia’s King Salman over the great success of the first Formula 1 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit.
King Hamad praised the “distinguished organization of this international sporting event” that showed that the Kingdom benefits from huge capabilities and potentials, which will boost it’s status on the global sports map and help it host major international events and tournaments.
The Bahraini monarch wished the Kingdom and the Saudi people more success, progress and prosperity in all fields and sectors.
King Hamad also congratulated Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and praised the support and attention he gives to the sports sector and efforts in hosting international races to enhance the Kingdom’s status as a preferred destination for various international events.
Meanwhile Bahraini Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad, who attended the race on Sunday, hailed the Jeddah circuit and the creativity of Saudis, and said the world was looking with admiration to the Kingdom’s increasing development and achievements.