ISIS attacks Saudi Arabia
LONDON - The Islamic State (ISIS) has taken responsibility for the suicide bombing at a Shia mosque in the village of Al-Qadeeh in eastern Saudi Arabia. The attack, targeting worshipers at the Ali Ibn Abi Taleb mosque during Friday prayers, resulted in the deaths of 21 people and wounded more than 100 others. It was the first full-scale ISIS attack in the Saudi kingdom.
Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud, two days after the May 22nd attack, vowed to bring anyone involved in the “heinous crime” to justice.
“Anyone taking part, planning, supporting, cooperating or sympathising with this heinous crime will be held accountable and will be subject to legal accountability. He will receive the deserved punishment,” the king said in a statement carried by the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA).
The kingdom’s Interior Ministry said the perpetrator was Saudi national Salih bin Abdulrahman Salih al-Ghishaami, who belonged to a 26-member cell affiliated with ISIS for more than a year. Five members of the same cell were involved in the death and mutilation of police officers south of Riyadh earlier in May.
Security personnel in the kingdom arrested 21 members of the cell, which included a 16-year-old, and two 15-year-olds.
Saudi Arabia’s religious establishment was quick to condemn the attack. The kingdom’s highest religious authority, Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Aziz al-Sheikh, described the attack as a “criminal and deliberate incident and the perpetrators aim to create a division among the people of the country, spread hostility and discord”.
Thousands took to the streets of Al-Qadeeh to protest the bombing, while conspiracy theories ran rampant within the kingdom’s Shia community, with many taking to social media to describe the attack as a Sunni/US project, in the process raising the spectre of sectarianism.
Meanwhile, Sheikh Mohammed Obeidan, a prominent Shia cleric and community leader, urged followers to keep the peace, stating: “ We’ll stand before anyone who thinks that our creed is a cause for fear or worry… Mass prayer — in a calm, orderly way with self restraint — is the right way to respond to this corrupt force and hateful darkness.”
Regarding the motivation behind the terrorist attack, Anwar Eshki, a military and strategic expert and director of Middle East Center for Strategic and Legal Studies in Jeddah, told The Arab Weekly that: “From the evidence that was recovered there is no doubt that Daesh was responsible and the aim of the operation was to sow the seeds of sectarianism and sedition between different Islamic sects and different regions within the kingdom.
“There are indications that the operation was state-sponsored, especially when you take into account the type of explosive materials that were recovered at the scene of the attack and the fact that authorities arrested a number of individuals trying to smuggle the same materials into Saudi Arabia through Bahrain.”
Eshki was referring to an incident earlier in May when Saudi and Bahraini security agencies arrested two people and recovered explosive material from a car at the King Fahd Causeway, a series of bridges that connects Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. Among the material seized by Saudi customs officials were 14 large bags of RDX paste, an explosive organic compound more powerful than TNT.
Discussing the fallout of the incident inside the kingdom, Eshki said: “For the most part the concerned authorities have managed to turn this tragedy that was intended to divide the nation into a cause for unity. This was achieved through the efficiency of the investigation, the medical support afforded to the injured, as well as the local media’s coverage, which reflected these efforts.”
Eshki also stressed the need for more efforts to tackle terrorist thinking. “It’s important in the next stage,” he said, “that Saudis remain vigilant and united in order to stop these terrorists from succeeding. Additionally, family unit has a role here in making sure their sons aren’t influenced. The media, the religious establishment, and the kingdom’s intellectuals all play a part in tackling this train of thought.”
Eshki went on to say that “entities with evil intentions” are targeting the kingdom’s youth because they are easier to manipulate. “Terrorist organisations, like ISIS, have their own scholars that issue fatwas in support of their ideology and it is important to follow up with these fatwas and to neutralise them with the right Islamic point of view. These matters need to be made clear to our youths, particularly through social media which is the preferred method of recruitment for these terrorists,” he added.
The attack on the Ali Ibn Abi Taleb mosque was the biggest since the 2003 al-Qaeda attack on the Muhaya compound in Riyadh. Interior Ministry spokesman Mansour Turki told state television the kingdom was seeking to root out Islamic State’s presence and that since last November it had arrested 93 suspected members of the group.