Asharq Alawsat reports that the government of Kuwait is looking into the possibility that the Saudi responsible for the suicide attack on a Shi’ite mosque may have ties with an Al-Qaeda affiliate, “Peninsula Lions.” The government believed it had crippled the group back in 2005, but documents found in the house from which the recent attack was staged show some relationship to the group. On the other hand, ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attack. It is, however, conceivable that the group has migrated toward ISIS, away from Al-Qaeda.

Kuwait investigates link between Shi’ite mosque attacker and “Peninsula Lions” group

Kuwait City, Asharq Al-Awsat—Kuwait is investigating whether the perpetrator of last week’s deadly attack on a Shi’ite mosque had links to the “Peninsula Lions,” an Al-Qaeda-linked group that staged a series of attacks in the oil-rich country in 2005.

Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity, a Kuwaiti security source said there were reports that jailed Peninsula Lions members shouted “Allahu Akbar” (God is great) upon receiving the news of Friday’s deadly attack on the Imam Al-Sadiq Mosque in the neighborhood of Sawabir in Kuwait City.

The incident has prompted the authorities to investigate whether the perpetrator of the attack had any links to the Peninsula Lions group whose members have been killed, imprisoned or fled Kuwait.

Kuwait dismantled the group in 2005 and jailed 37 of its members on charge of belonging to Al-Qaeda.

Nine members were killed during clashes with Kuwaiti police in early 2005 and six were given death sentences.

Kuwait has identified the suicide bomber as Fahd Suleiman Abdul Mohsen Al-Qaba’a, a 23-year-old Saudi citizen who crossed into the neighboring country on the same day he carried out the attack.

July:01:2015 - 07:00 | Comments & Trackbacks (0) | Permalink

H.A. Hellyer, writing at Al Arabiya TV, notes that there’s something wrong with the (partial) condemnations of sectarianism popping up in the regional media. Whether is obliviousness, disengenuity, or out-and-out machinations, what is condemned is only that which comes from the other guy. “Our guy” gets a pass, if not actual support.

The short-sightedness (to put it at its most gentle) is appalling. There seems to be utterly no conception of the possibility that today’s majority might not remain so tomorrow. And when that happens, all the methods, tricks, interpretations, and the like that are used to justify violence in the name of today’s majorities will be used to justify similar actions against them when they’re in the minority. Even the most cursory reading of history should inform one that things do not stay the same forever.

Sectarianism is bad… until it is your side that is inciting it
H.A. Hellyer

It’s Ramadan. Against the backdrop of Muslims observing the obligatory performance of the fast, sheikhs and religious authorities will remind the faithful of the saying of the Prophet: “There has come to you Ramadan, a blessed month which God has enjoined you to fast, during which the gates of heaven are opened and the gates of Hell are closed, and the rebellious devils are chained up.” Sages in the past would comment – and warn believers that if there were sins they persisted in the month, they had to take them seriously. For in this month, the whispers and murmurs, beckoning souls to wretchedness – well, that’s all on them. Because the devils, as the adage goes, are locked up.

One would hope, then, that in this month, there would be an absence of truly horrendous actions – if from no one else, than from Muslims themselves, particularly those that claim to raise high the banner of Islam. Alas, the last few days show that while some human beings don’t require the murmurs and whispers of baser beings at all – they can do rather evil things all on their own.

… Is the principle really ‘sectarianism is bad’ – or is the principle ‘sectarianism is bad… until it is my side doing it?’

Is there anyone who will take seriously within the region that be it Sunni on Shiite sectarianism; or Shiite on Sunni sectarianism; or Sunni on Sunni sectarianism; or Muslim on Christian sectarianism; that these are all just bad ideas? That differences of views can, and should, be expressed – but that the incitement that finds itself in words will, far too often, be eventually conveyed in acts of violence and terrible consequences? Or have too few not reached the point of realizing that rotten discourse does not have rotten consequences?

Are there leaders in these communities who know they must rise, in order to be clear once and for all, not simply in rhetoric but in action, to avert further catastrophe by declaring – if you will seek to promote hate and incitement, you will not be tolerated? Are there leaders who will pursue that path, not as a way to crackdown on legitimate dissent and varying opinions that do not win favor with the palace – but as a way to ensure and develop the health of their communities and societies?

June:29:2015 - 10:07 | Comments & Trackbacks (1) | Permalink

Saudi Gazette carries an Agence France Presse article reporting that Kuwait officials have identified a Saudi national as responsible for the bombing of a Shi’a mosque in Kuwait. The attack seems to have been well-planned, with the bomber entering Kuwait only on the morning of the attack. Others involved has been arrested, including the owner of the house from which the plan developed, as well as the driver and the owner of the vehicle used to transport the bomber to the mosque.

Kuwait mosque bomber a Saudi national, say probers
Omar Hasan | AFP

KUWAIT CITY: Kuwait on Sunday identified the suicide bomber behind an attack on a Shiite mosque as a Saudi national, after a series of arrests in connection with the blast that left 26 dead.

Friday’s attack also wounded 227 worshippers in the first bombing of a mosque in the tiny Gulf state, and Kuwait’s security services have vowed to catch and punish those responsible.

The Daesh (Arabic acronym for the group calling itself Islamic State) group’s Saudi affiliate, the so-called Najd Province, claimed the bombing and identified the assailant as Abu Suleiman Al-Muwahhid.

June:28:2015 - 12:35 | Comments Off | Permalink

Al Arabiya TV features a Reuters report on the 2014 Annual Report on Terrorism from the US Department of State. The report is global, but most interest is focused on the Middle East, primarily with the rise of ISIS. The report is based on State Dept. reporting conducted in 2014, but is published now.

The section on Saudi Arabia notes Saudi confrontations with Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and with ISIS/ISIL, but does not include conflict in Yemen that broke out only this year. It does report on widespread Saudi anti-terrorism and anti-terror-financing efforts.

Big rise in deadly terror attacks, says U.S. report
Warren Strobel | Reuters Washington

Terrorist attacks worldwide surged by more than a third and fatalities soared by 81 percent in 2014, a year that also saw ISIS eclipse al-Qaeda as the leading jihadist militant group, the U.S. State Department said on Friday.

In its annual report on terrorism, the department also charts an unprecedented flow of foreign fighters to Syria, often lured by ISIS’s use of social media and drawn from diverse social backgrounds.

Taken together, the trends point to a sobering challenge from militant groups worldwide to the United States and its allies despite severe blows inflicted on al-Qaeda, author of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks in Washington and New York.

Al-Qaeda’s leaders “appeared to lose momentum as the self-styled leader of a global movement in the face of ISIS’s rapid expansion and proclamation of a Caliphate,” the report said, using an alternate acronym for Islamic State.

June:20:2015 - 07:07 | Comments Off | Permalink

Al Arabiya TV reports that the attitudes of Saudis about terrorism have changed over the past ten years. In the past, excuses would be sought to explain extremist acts; extenuating circumstances would be found to somehow make those acts reasonable. Now, the article (and accompanying video) say, there’s no tolerance for it. Even families are turning their young, extremist members to the authorities.

Saudi views shifting on Islamic extremism
Shounaz Meky | Al Arabiya News

More voices are making themselves heard in Saudi Arabia, expressing their rejection of terrorism and violence by extremist groups in the name of Islam, Al Arabiya News Channel reported.

The report notes how Saudi perceptions of extremist groups has changed over the last 10 years.

Saudis rushed to denounce two recent suicide attacks against Shiite mosques in the kingdom that killed at least 25 people.

However, when there were terror attacks in 2003 and 2005, the report said Saudis were much more inclined to justify terrorism and sympathize with extremist groups than they are now.

Another piece on the same webpage points to social media as a facilitator of extremist thought. While the article extols government efforts to contain it, it also calls for coordinated international action, on the parts of government but also by social media companies, to rein it in.

And here, even though Al Arabiya glosses over it, the time-worn argument rises: “one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.” Having excused terrorism in the past because the supposed goals of the terrorist were acceptable, governments in the region are now faced with dealing with the terrorist methodology when the goals aren’t quite so in line with government policies. Not having a First Amendment as does the US, the Saudi government approach ignores the fact that differences in opinion are always going to exist. It’s not the opinions that matter most when it comes to terrorism, but the means through which people seek to call them into reality.

Curbing online extremism in Saudi Arabia

June:17:2015 - 09:18 | Comments Off | Permalink

Al Arabiya TV runs an article on domestic terrorism in Saudi Arabia. Oddly, the presentation (there’s a video on the webpage) only starts with 2003 and the May bombings of residential compounds in Riyadh. Nor is it fully inclusive. There’s no mention, for example, of the killing of three French nationals near Madain Saleh in 2007.

A comprehensive history would start at least as early as 1979 with the seizure of the Grand Mosque in Mecca by ultra-fundamentalists. It would also include various bombings and shootings that took place in the 1980s and 1990s. I’m not sure just what purpose this piece is intended to meet.

A history of domestic terrorism in Saudi Arabia
Salma El Shahed | Al Arabiya News

The two deadly suicide attacks in Saudi, which claimed the lives of dozens of worshippers in the kingdom’s eastern province in May, mark the latest in a series of coordinated attacks launched in 2003 by the Al-Qaeda militant group.

The report is part of a series by Al Arabiya News Channel on terrorism in Saudi Arabia.

In 2003, three car bombs were detonated near three residential compounds in Riyadh housing Saudis and expats, killing 20 people and injuring 200 others. Following the attack, the Saudi Ministry of Interior launched a major operation hunting down the suspects, Al Arabiya News Channel reported.

June:15:2015 - 06:20 | Comments Off | Permalink

Asharq Alawsat reports that the Saudi government has identified 16 suspects believed to have been involved in Shi’ite mosque bombings in Qatif and Dammam. The government is offering rewards of SR one million for information leading to the arrest of any of the individuals and up to five million for aid in thwarting a future attack. All named suspects are believed to be working with ISIS.

Saudi Arabia names 16 suspects in mosque attacks

Jeddah, Asharq Al-Awsat—Saudi Arabia’s Interior Ministry has issued a list of suspects wanted in connection with an attack on a Shi’ite mosque in Dammam in the Eastern Province, offering a reward of 5 million Saudi Riyals to information leading to the arrest of the 16 suspects.

“Following an investigation into the schemes of this deviant group destined to undermine the security of this country and its citizens . . .The competent authorities have been able to obtain important information about parties having varying links with those elements and tragic criminal acts which necessitate that these parties be brought urgently in front of the security authorities,” a Saudi Interior Ministry spokesman said in comments to the state-owned Saudi Press Agency (SPA).

The SPA report confirmed that the 16 men are wanted in connection with a suicide attack on a Shi’ite mosque in the eastern city of Dammam on Friday and an attack one week earlier on a Shi’ite mosque in the eastern Al-Qatif governorate that killed 21 worshipers in the midst of Friday prayers, as well as a previous attack on a security patrol.

June:04:2015 - 09:08 | Comments Off | Permalink

Asharq Alawsat reports that the Saudi government is intent on hunting down those responsible for the suicide bombing on Friday at a Shi’a mosque in the Eastern Province. The attack has garnered condemnation across the country, including from the Grand Mufti.

The ISIS group has claimed responsibility, but that claim is itself under investigation.

Saudi Arabia vows to hunt down Qatif attack “masterminds”

Qatif and Dammam, Asharq Al-Awsat—Saudi Arabia vowed to hunt down those behind the deadly terrorist attack on a Shi’ite mosque in the village of Al-Qadeeh in the eastern province of Qatif on Friday.

The blast at the Ali Ibn Abu Talib Mosque in the small town of Al-Qadeeh is the second attack on a Shi’ite mosque in eastern Saudi Arabia in the last six months. At least 21 worshipers were killed, including a six-year-old child, while 97 others were injured in the attack.

The attack is believed to have been carried out by a lone suicide bomber, although the circumstances are still being investigated by Saudi security authorities. “What is important now is that we stop the masterminds behind this cowardly act and arrest them,” Interior Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Mansour Al-Turki told international media following the attack.

Eyewitnesses informed Asharq Al-Awsat that the suicide bomber entered the mosque after the Friday sermon in the middle of prayers, locking the door of the mosque behind him before detonating himself in the midst of the worshipers.

“The suicide bomber broke into the middle of the praying ranks with the aim of killing the largest number of casualties,” an eye-witness said.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, although Al-Turki described those responsible for the attack as part of the “deviant group,” Saudi shorthand for Al-Qaeda or the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

May:23:2015 - 08:49 | Comments Off | Permalink

Al Arabiya TV reports that Saudi authorities have broken up an ISIS cell that had been planning attacks across the country. Most of those arrested were Saudi, with several foreigners also included.

Saudi arrests 93 suspected of ISIS links

Saudi Arabia has arrested 93 people, including a woman, with links to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the Saudi interior ministry said on Tuesday.

The statement said authorities had foiled several ISIS attempts to assassinate a number of members of the military.

A militant cell planned a suicide car bombing targeting the U.S. embassy in Riyadh, but the plot was disrupted in March, said the Interior Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Mansour al-Turki.

The arrests have taken place since December last year and most of those detained were Saudis.

Among those held is a 65-strong ISIS-linked group plotting to target “residential areas, and operations to incite sectarian sedition” in attacks similar to the killing of seven members of the minority Shiite community in Eastern Province in November, it said.

April:28:2015 - 09:15 | Comments & Trackbacks (4) | Permalink

Saudi Arabia has been busy on the home front in fighting terrorism, Saudi Gazette reports. Over 800 have been arrested over the last six month, primarily Saudis, but including at least 23 other nationalities.

Over this same time period, five attacks have taken place, several leading to fatalities.

811 arrested on terror charges
Mishal Al-Otaibi | Saudi Gazette

RIYADH — The security authorities have arrested 811 people of 25 nationalities on terrorism charges across the Kingdom in the past six months, according to sources.

These include an American, a French national and a Canadian.

Weapons, explosives, various documents and electronic devices were found in their possession.

Of the arrested persons, 634 are Saudis, 73 are Yemenis, 51 Syrians, 17 Pakistanis, 15 Egyptians, eight Palestinians, eight unidentified persons, six Sudanese, six Jordanians, five Indians, four Bangladeshis, three Chadians, two Iraqis, two Ethiopians, two Malians, a Canadian, Libyan, Malaysian, Filipino, American, Frenchman, Bahraini, Qatari, Kuwaiti and Lebanese.

During the pursuit, four security men were martyred and 25 sustained injuries.

This brings to total 3,692 people of 42 nationalities arrested in terrorism related cases since the Kingdom started pursuing them.

April:26:2015 - 06:35 | Comments Off | Permalink

Saudi Gazette reports that Saudi authorities have interrupted a plot by ISIS to use car bombs in the Kingdom. Arrests and seizures of the cars and bomb-making materials came as part of the investigation into the shooting deaths of two Saudi policemen in Riyadh earlier this month.

Saudi Arabia foils Daesh bomb plot
Mishal Al-Otaibi

RIYADH — The Interior Ministry said on Friday it had foiled a bomb plot by Daesh (the so-called IS) and blamed the group for shooting dead two policemen in Riyadh earlier this month.

Interior Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Mansour Al-Turki said three bomb-laden cars had been seized during investigations into the killings.

A Saudi man arrested at a farm in the Huraimla governorate, north of Riyadh, on suspicion of carrying out the shooting has confessed that he was following orders received from Daesh in Syria, Al-Turki told a press conference. He also confessed to injuring two other policemen in a separate attack in March.

The suspect was identified as Yazid Bin Mohammed Abdulrahman Abu Niyan, 23. The authorities offered a SR1 million bounty for an accomplice, another Saudi identified as Nawaf Bin Sharif Samir Al-Onaizi, who was wanted over several other criminal cases.

Arab News also covers the story:

IS ordered cops’ killing

April:25:2015 - 07:05 | Comments Off | Permalink

An interesting op-ed in Asharq Alawsat from former Editor-in-Chief Tariq Alhomayed. In it, he complains about how media (and others) use names to identify both individuals and groups. It’s a problem of long standing, not just in today’s contexts. Do you use the name the subject uses for self-identification or do you use something else, perhaps assigned for political or other reasons? Who gets to do the naming? And what of the consequences of name that carry emotional or political baggage?

He doesn’t really offer any good solutions, but identifying the fact that names are not just some neutral tag is useful. It might help journalists (and others) to think about names, but it doesn’t offer any useful argument or conclusions on how to deal with the conundrum.

Opinion: Abu Who?
Tariq Alhomayed

One can only be shocked and surprised by the way the Arab media has been reporting on terrorism and terrorists. Most recently we had the story of the Australian teenager Jake Bilardi, aged 18, who is believed to have carried out a suicide bombing in Iraq’s central city of Ramadi on behalf of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

What is shocking to me is that the majority of Arab media used this teen’s chosen kunya (an Arabic teknonymic naming convention) of Abu Abdullah Al-Australi (meaning “Father of Abdullah the Australian” in Arabic) in their reports, rather than describing him as what he actually was, namely “the terrorist Jake Bilardi.” Here we must ask ourselves: Is it so important for the media to respect the protocols and naming conventions of terrorists and terrorist groups? Must we ensure that the chosen name of a terrorist is used and repeated again and again until it becomes infamous?

Should we allow terrorists and terrorist groups to promote themselves in our media in this manner? Doesn’t the media have a duty to take a position on this issue? The media, by its very nature, is biased to one degree or another—regardless of claims to neutrality. So a killer must be described as a killer; a criminal as a criminal; and the same applies to a terrorist, even a teenage one.

Today, for example, we find some media outlets describing ISIS as the “Islamic State” or the “Islamic State group.” While other news outlets describe them in the same manner, but make sure to add the term “militant” or “radical” to the mix. But, by adding this description—or shall we say classification—do these latter media outlets inadvertently stumble into the realm of propaganda?

What about the media outlets or governments that insist on using the Arabic acronym of the group and call them “Daesh”? Is this better or worse, particularly when we know that ISIS itself does not approve of this name?

March:18:2015 - 08:32 | Comments Off | Permalink
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