Saudi soldier who died in Iraqi prison finally home and at rest

Saudi soldier who died in Iraqi prison finally home and at rest
Most of the casualties during the 42-day war were among the Iraqi troops. As many as 35,000 were killed. (GettyImages)
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Updated 24 October 2021

Saudi soldier who died in Iraqi prison finally home and at rest

Saudi soldier who died in Iraqi prison finally home and at rest
  • Capt. Abdullah Al-Qarni was captured in Kuwait during first Gulf War; his death was not discovered until after Saddam’s fall

MAKKAH: After three decades, Capt. Abdullah Al-Qarni, a Saudi soldier who was captured by Iraqi forces during Operation Desert Storm and died in an Iraqi prison, finally returned home this week.

His remains arrived at King Abdulaziz airport on Oct. 21 and were taken to Makkah for funeral prayers and burial at the city’s Cemetery of Martyrs.

The chain of events that led to his death began on Aug. 2, 1990, when Iraqi forces invaded Kuwait and took over the capital city within a matter of hours. The surprise attack was the beginning of a seven-month occupation of the country. In response, troops, tanks, artillery, ships and aircraft from more than 40 allied countries, led by the US, mobilized and gathered in the Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province and the capital, Riyadh, for Operation Desert Storm, with the aim of driving the invaders out of Kuwait.

By Jan. 17, 1991, an allied force of more than 600,000 ground, sea and air troops had assembled and an aerial and naval bombardment began. This was followed a week later by a ground assault. Al-Qarni was among the troops.

Most of the casualties during the 42-day war were among the Iraqi troops, with some estimates suggesting as many as 35,000 were killed. Dozens of allied troops also died. Among the Saudi forces, 18 were killed and 32 wounded. Eleven Saudi prisoners of war were later returned unharmed to the Kingdom. 

The exact circumstances that led to Al-Qarni’s capture remain unknown but it was eventually confirmed he was in a prison in Iraq and apparently died there at some point in the decade that followed, though the details are unclear. Years of efforts by Saudi authorities to have his remains returned home to his family were finally rewarded this week.

The martyred soldier’s brother, retired Saudi navy veteran Saleem Al-Qarni, and cousin, Saleh Salman Al-Qarni, told Arab News that he had died a noble death, serving his nation until the very end.

Before the war, they said, he had bid his three daughters and wife farewell and left their home town of Shaaf in Qarn, in Asir region, and headed to Riyadh for some military training.

“A few months before the Gulf War in 1990, my brother was chosen among a group to train in Al-Muzahimiyah (west of Riyadh),” said Saleem. “After more than a month, the brutal attack on Kuwait occurred and they were ordered to go directly there on military missions.”

He said that his brother did not hesitate to join the fight but it is believed that after about five days in action he was captured and taken to Iraq. The family was informed and the Saudi government continued to monitor the condition of detainees. Saleem said his brother was believed to still be detained in Iraq when US-led forces invaded the country in 2002.

After the death of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and the fall of his regime, however, no trace could be found in any prison of Al-Qarni or a group of his friends. Later, his remains were identified and the family faced a new battle to have them returned. But they never gave up hope and, with the help of the Saudi government, continued their campaign.

“The government also did a thorough follow-up of all necessary procedures, until his remains were identified and taken back home,” said Saleem.

“My brother died fearlessly defending our country. God granted him the honor of martyrdom while he was defending the region with his colleagues who knew of the sacrifices and were loyal, fearless and defended their country to the very end.”

In 2004 the family had a death certificate issued the following year, Saleem married his brother’s widow to take care of her and his three nieces, the youngest of whom Abdullah only saw for a day before shipping out. Together they had two more daughters and remained together as a family until she died in 2019.

Saleem explained that his parents endured a lot of suffering as a result of what happened to his brother. Because his whereabouts were unknown until his death was confirmed, they had clung to the hope that they might be reunited. His father died in 2000 and his mother in 2015.

Saleh said that the martyrdom of his cousin while defending his country was a source of the utmost honor, pride and nobility. He was very religious and loyal to his homeland and king, he added, and did his duty without hesitation for the sake of his country and region.

“We bid him farewell as a body and soul and welcome his remains,” said Saleh. “This situation creates mixed feelings of pain, loss and pride. We are comforted that he honored his duty. We lost his pure soul and beautiful spirit in the darkness of Iraqi prisons.”


French culture minister visits historic Jeddah

French culture minister visits historic Jeddah
Updated 14 sec ago

French culture minister visits historic Jeddah

French culture minister visits historic Jeddah
  • Bachelot toured various old parts of Jeddah, known locally as Al-Balad
  • The minister also visited Beit Nassif and Al-Shafei Mosque

JEDDAH: French Culture Minister Roselyne Bachelot visited Jeddah on Saturday during her visit to Saudi Arabia.  

Bachelot toured various old parts of the city, known locally as Al-Balad, visiting its historic houses and viewing authentic building patterns reflecting the identity and heritage of the region.  

The minister also visited Beit Nassif and Al-Shafei Mosque, where she was briefed on the various facilities, neighborhoods and landmarks that still exist today, and listened to an explanation about the excavation of antiquities carried out across Jeddah. 

Al-Balad, downtown Jeddah and the Gate to Makkah, is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Last month, Saudi Culture Minister Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan praised the strong relations between the Kingdom and France, including their respective cultural heritages, during his meeting with Bachelot in Paris.

The prince discussed ways to strengthen cultural cooperation between the two countries, including through exchange programs and the Historic Jeddah Revival Project, in addition to research and capabilities development.


Saudi crown prince, French president, and Lebanese PM hold telephone call

Saudi crown prince, French president, and Lebanese PM  hold telephone call
Updated 15 min 24 sec ago

Saudi crown prince, French president, and Lebanese PM hold telephone call

Saudi crown prince, French president, and Lebanese PM  hold telephone call
  • PM expressed Lebanon's appreciation for efforts made by Kingdom and France to stand by Lebanese people
  • Mikati: Government committed to taking all action that would strengthen relations with Kingdom and GCC

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia's crown prince and France's president held a telephone call with Lebanon's prime minister on Saturday.

During the phone call, Najib Mikati expressed Lebanon's appreciation for the great efforts made by the Kingdom and France to stand by the Lebanese people.

He added that his government was committed to taking all action that would strengthen relations with Saudi Arabia and Gulf Cooperation Council countries and rejects everything that would harm their security and stability.

The three countries agreed to work together to support comprehensive reforms necessary in Lebanon.

Saudi Arabia and France emphasized their keenness on the establishment of security and stability in Lebanon.

French President Emmanuel Macron met Prince Mohammed bin Salman at the Al-Salam palace in Jeddah on Saturday during the final leg of his two-day Gulf tour.


Saudi Arabia announces two more COVID-19 deaths

Saudi Arabia announces two more COVID-19 deaths
Updated 04 December 2021

Saudi Arabia announces two more COVID-19 deaths

Saudi Arabia announces two more COVID-19 deaths
  • The total number of recoveries in the Kingdom has increased to 539,011
  • A total of 8,842 people have succumbed to the virus in the Kingdom so far

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia announced two deaths from COVID-19 and 29 new infections on Saturday.

Of the new cases, nine were recorded in Riyadh, seven in  Jeddah, three in Makkah, two in Taif, and two in Dhahran. Several other cities recorded one new case each.

The total number of recoveries in the Kingdom increased to 539,011 after 21 more patients recovered from the virus.

A total of 8,842 people have succumbed to the virus in the Kingdom so far.

Over 47.6 million doses of a coronavirus vaccine have been administered in the Kingdom to date.


French President Macron meets Saudi crown prince in final Gulf stop

French President Macron meets Saudi crown prince in final Gulf stop
Updated 04 December 2021

French President Macron meets Saudi crown prince in final Gulf stop

French President Macron meets Saudi crown prince in final Gulf stop

RIYADH: French President Emmanuel Macron was received by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at the Al-Salam palace in Jeddah on Saturday .

The two leaders dicussed bilateral cooperation and issues of interest in the region, and the crown prince hosted a working lunch for the president.

The lunch was also attended by the Crown Prince of Bahrain Prince Salman bin Hamad.

Macron arrived in Jeddah earlier and was received at the airport by Prince Khalid Al-Faisal, governor of Makkah and royal advisor. 

The visit is part of Macron’s Gulf tour, during which he is visiting Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Qatar between Dec. 3 and 4. 

Saudi and French firms are expected to discuss cooperation in several fields including energy, finance and tourism.  

Speaking to the press in Dubai, Macron said Saudi Arabia, the most populated and most powerful country in the Gulf, held the key to preserving peace and stability in the Middle East, and also in the French endeavor to assist Lebanon.


Saudi aid agency discusses education efforts at UN conference

Dr. Hana Salem highlighted the efforts made by Saudi Arabia  to support education. (SPA)
Dr. Hana Salem highlighted the efforts made by Saudi Arabia to support education. (SPA)
Updated 04 December 2021

Saudi aid agency discusses education efforts at UN conference

Dr. Hana Salem highlighted the efforts made by Saudi Arabia  to support education. (SPA)
  • The conference tackled the importance of improving the quality of education, spreading knowledge, exchanging experiences and innovation in times of crisis

RIYADH: The King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center recently participated virtually in the “Leaving No One Behind: Benefiting from Innovation to Access Quality Education and Information” conference.

This comes within the framework of the annual program “Innovate Now … Live Tomorrow” and the Regional Digital Inclusion Week for Arab States organized by the International Telecommunication Union and the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

Speakers from the regional offices of UNESCO and concerned authorities participated in the two-day conference.

During the conference, KSrelief was represented by the director of the community support department, Dr. Hana Salem, who highlighted the efforts made by the Kingdom to support education — 89 educational projects were presented in more than 14 countries, at a budget amounting to nearly $200 million.

She touched on the educational projects provided during the coronavirus disease pandemic, indicating that the center works closely with local and international organizations to meet people’s needs and search for appropriate and sustainable solutions to ensure access to education.

She also stressed the center’s keenness to support innovation in educational projects.

For his part, the head of initiatives at the International Telecommunication Union, Alex Wong, discussed the Giga initiative, which aims to connect every school to the internet and ensure access to education for every child.

The conference tackled the importance of improving the quality of education, spreading knowledge, exchanging experiences and innovation in times of crisis, especially in light of the challenges the world is witnessing during the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on education.

It also touched on the use of artificial intelligence systems in education and intellectual property rights and the importance of developing educational cadres to keep pace with the need in digital education.