Baghdadi calls for attacks on Saudi Arabia after ISIS crackdown
LONDON - Islamic State (ISIS) leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has called for attacks on Saudi Arabia, including against the ruling royal family.
ISIS has suffered a series of military setbacks and has seen its territory shrink considerably. Iraqi troops, Kurdish peshmerga fighters and Shia militias are conducting a major offensive backed by US-led coalition air power to liberate Mosul, which ISIS captured in 2014 and where Baghdadi proclaimed a caliphate shortly after. It is the last major ISIS stronghold in Iraq.
Baghdadi had not been heard from in more than a year before the release of a 30-minute audio statement aimed at galvanising his followers. He called for “attack after attack” in Saudi Arabia, targeting the ruling Al Saud family, security forces, government officials and the media.
“The message to Saudi sympathisers to attack writers (and officials) is even more alarming. Both suggest new focus,” Hassan Hassan, co-author of ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror, posted on Twitter.
The orders from Baghdadi came less than a week after Riyadh announced it had foiled several terrorist plots, including one that appeared similar to ISIS attacks in Europe — targeting a football stadium, with the potential for a large number of casualties.
The Saudi Interior Ministry revealed that four people were arrested on October 10th in connection with a terror plot targeting a World Cup qualifying match between Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates at King Abdullah Sports City Stadium in Jeddah.
A foreign cell, which included a Sudanese national, two Pakistanis and a Syrian, intended to carry out a suicide car bomb attack at the sold-out event, which attracted more than 60,000 fans, the ministry said in a statement.
It said cell members were caught “the moment they received the booby-trapped car one day before the match”. The failed operation echoes that of November 2015 when ISIS tried to attack the Stade de France as a part of coordinated attacks in Paris in which 130 people were killed.
The Interior Ministry also said it had dismantled another ISIS cell, made up of Saudi nationals who had been ordered to attack security organisations in Riyadh while another cell planned to carry out attacks in the city of Qatif in the Eastern province, where the largest number of Shias in the country live. The London-based pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat said the cells had received instructions from an ISIS leader in Syria.
The Saudi government asked the public to be on the lookout as members of a cell made up of eight Saudis and a Bahraini national were on the run.
Saudi-owned Al Arabiya News Channel General Manager Turki Aldakhil wrote: “Terrorism has one common goal and that is systematic murder… Not even Medina or the tomb of the Prophet or the holy city of Mecca have been spared.”
The Kuwaiti government said it had increased efforts to stop funds — particularly through the misappropriation of charity donations — from reaching ISIS from within its borders.
In September 2015, a Kuwaiti court sentenced seven men to death for their role in a Shia mosque bombing claimed by ISIS, the bloodiest attack in the Gulf state’s history.
A total of 29 defendants, seven of them women, were tried on charges of helping a Saudi suicide bomber carry out the June 26th attack that killed 26 Shia worshippers and wounded at least 227.
Both the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia are a part of the coalition conducting air strikes on ISIS in Syria.