Terror plot revelations mark King Salman’s Far East tour

Sunday 12/03/2017
Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud (L) walks next to Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak in Putrajaya, on February 27th. (Reuters)

Malaysian authorities said they discovered an assassination plot targeting Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, a revelation that marked the monarch’s second week of an extended Far East tour.

Malaysian police chief Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar announced the arrest of seven men, including four Yemenis, who were allegedly plan­ning to attack King Salman during his visit to Malaysia in late Febru­ary, the first stop on his six-country trip.

“We managed to get them in the nick of time… Thank God, they did not even get close,” the police chief said.

The Yemenis, between the ages of 26 and 33, were arrested ahead of the king’s visit on February 26th in the town of Cyberjaya. A police source told Reuters they were Iran-allied Houthi rebels, a group at war with the internationally recognised government of Yemen, which is militarily backed by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in the two-year conflict.

“They are suspected of being part of a rebel faction in Yemen. They were also involved in a syndi­cate specialising in falsifying travel documents,” the police source said.

Abu Bakar disclosed that a “ve­hicle-borne improvised explosive device” was the intended killing method in the plot.

Other men arrested in the scheme included a 41-year-old Malaysian factory technician and a 28-year-old Indonesian farmer. Local reports said the latter was a bomb-making expert who re­ceived orders from Muhammad Wanndy Mohamed Jedi, an Islamic State (ISIS) member and one of the world’s most wanted terrorists.

The Saudi king is on a 31-day trip to the Far East to enhance diplo­matic relations with the kingdom’s global partners and promote its ambitious Vision 2030 social and economic reform plan.

The king’s next-to-last stop was China, the world’s second biggest economy. Besides business-related initiatives, security and military cooperation will factor heavily in the visit, analysts said.

Writing in the Washington Post, Jonathan Fulton, who teaches po­litical science at Zayed University in Abu Dhabi, said: “The China- Saudi security relationship was emphasised during a visit to China by Deputy Crown Prince Moham­med bin Salman [bin Abdulaziz] in August, when Chinese Defence Minister Chang Wanquan said: ‘China is willing to push military relations with Saudi Arabia to a new level’.”

Fulton, who tweets about China- Middle East relations, added that: “A China-GCC [Gulf Cooperation Council] free trade agreement is expected soon and the commercial side of the relationship will only grow stronger, making Gulf secu­rity an on-going economic impera­tive for China.”

In a news conference ahead of King Salman’s arrival, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said he hoped Saudi Arabia and Iran could resolve issues “through equal and friendly consultations”.

“China is a common friend of Saudi Arabia and Iran and, if nec­essary, China is willing to play our essential role,” Wang said.

Wang described the nuclear deal with Iran and world powers, including China and the United States, as an “example of resolving disputes through political and dip­lomatic means. We believe that all parties should abide by the prom­ise and fulfil their due obligations to implement the agreement.”

China is the world’s largest im­porter of oil and one of the most im­portant markets for Saudi Arabia.

Last year a number of deals were signed during Prince Mohammed’s visit to China, including an agree­ment between Saudi Aramco and the state-owned China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) and another by the kingdom’s Housing Ministry for cooperation in build­ing 100,000 homes in Al-Ahsa in eastern Saudi Arabia.