Saudi Gazette reports that while the Saudi program to rehabilitate those involved in terrorist activities has been largely successful over the past 10 years, it might be time to do a reappraisal to see if it might not be improved. That, at least, is the opinion of a member of the Shoura Council. I think the program has been incrementally tweaked over that time period, though, with changes made as they were seen to be beneficial. It certainly couldn’t hurt to re-examine it, something that I think all government programs — and all governments — should do with some regularity.
The Munasaha rehabilitation program claims a 12% recidivism rate.
<Shoura member: Need to revise terrorist rehabilitation program
Saudi Gazette report
RIYADH — The terrorist rehabilitation programs run by Prince Muhammad Bin Naif Center for Advice and Care needs to be revised and reevaluated now that it has been in place for ten years, according to Latifah Al-Shalan, member of the Shoura Council, Al-Watan daily reported.
Only 10 percent of rehabilitated inmates return to terrorist activities after their release from the center, according to reports.
“These reports do not change the fact that the center has produced very positive results since its inception in 2004,” Al-Shalan said during the Council’s session on the great achievements accomplished by the Ministry of Interior in fighting terrorism.
She said the Council’s committees and some of its members are capable of contributing to a comprehensive plan to further develop the program.
Asharq Alawsat reports that the GCC is considering forming a unified list of terrorists and terrorist organizations, to be based on the list already drawn up by Saudi Arabia and the UAE. This should prove interesting as not all countries are agreed on just who should be on the list.
Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat—Gulf states are considering adopting the terror lists issued by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait’s Interior Minister Sheikh Mohamed Al-Khalid Al-Sabah said on Wednesday.
In comments to Asharq Al-Awsat, Kuwait’s Interior Minister said that Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states are coordinating with one another to investigate the Saudi and Emirati terror lists with a view to adopting them, confirming that the adoption of a joint terror list was discussed at the recent Doha summit.
Al-Sabah warned against “complacency” in dealing with Gulf security, stressing that combating terrorism is something that no single Gulf country can do alone, but something that all GCC states must work together on.
He hailed GCC efforts to promote regional security and stability, despite the regional and international challenges facing the Gulf, stressing that the GCC states must remain steadfast in the face of attempts to divide them.
The UAE announced a list of illegal terrorist organizations in November, formally designating 80 groups, including the Muslim Brotherhood and Yemen’s Houthis, as “terrorist groups.” Riyadh had earlier issued its own formal terror list, designating the Muslim Brotherhood, Al-Qaeda, and Yemen’s Houthis as terrorist groups, in March. The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and the Al-Nusra Front, Al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria, have also been formally designated as terrorist groups by Abu Dhabi and Riyadh.
Al Arabiya TV reports that Saudi authorities have arrested 135 people on terrorism charges. It’s interesting that the TV channel uses scare quotes around the word “terrorists.” Does it have some doubts about what the government is saying?
audi authorities have arrested 135 “terrorists,” among them 16 Syrians, who were scheming to sabotage security in the kingdom, the Interior Ministry’s spokesman said on Sunday.
“The security forces were able to pursue these terrorist suspects, who differ ideologically but are united through terrorism. This resulted in the arrest of 135 terrorists,” General Mansour Al-Turki said in a statement.
Turki said the majority of those detained were Saudi nationals and that 26 were from different nationalities including 16 Syrians, three Yemenis, one Egyptian, one Lebanese, one Afghani, one Ethiopian, one Bahraini and one Iraqi.
The spokesman said 40 of those arrested hailed from different Saudi regions and were involved in training and joining radical organizations abroad. They were also vowing to return to Saudi Arabia to carry out operations to destabilize the country’s security, he said.
At a Brussels meeting of foreign ministers of the coalition against ISIS, Saudi Arabia’s Saud Al-Faisal warned that ISIS cannot be defeated without the use of ground troops. He did not say, however, whose troops would have to be involved or under what aegis or authority they would fight in Syria and Iraq. This is a rather large detail.
It would be interesting if the Arab League could pull together a joint army, authorizing it to combat ISIS. It’s even conceivably possible, though unlikely. Waiting for armed forces from outside the region, though, is a matter of “Let’s you and him fight.”
Brussels and Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat—Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal said that the fight against Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) cannot be waged by aerial bombing alone during a speech to representatives of the US-led anti-ISIS coalition on Wednesday.
Speaking to diplomats from more than 60 countries and international organizations at NATO’s headquarters in Brussels, the Saudi Foreign Minister said: “We are all well aware that countering terrorism will take a long time and requires continuing effort.”
“Out of the Kingdom’s keenness on the continuation of the cohesion of this coalition and the success of its efforts . . .We believe that this requires the presence of combat troops on the ground,” he said.
Wednesday’s meeting was the largest meeting of anti-ISIS coalition foreign ministers since the inception of the alliance. Representatives from more than 60 countries met to discuss the latest developments in the fight against ISIS, and released a statement to continue their efforts to clamp down on the group’s presence in Iraq and Syria.
The Saudi Foreign Minister called for increased efforts to “strengthen the forces of moderation in Syria,” singling out the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and other moderate opposition forces in particular.
“This would unite the efforts of these forces to be used to purge the Syrian territory of all terrorist organizations, which occupy one third of Syria,” Prince Saud Al-Faisal said.
Only 12% of those going through Saudi Arabia’s rehabilitation program — Munasaha — for those arrested for terrorism-related crimes go back to their ways, the Ministry of Interior says. This is quite a low rate compared to other criminal rehabilitation programs internationally. In the US, overall criminal recidivism rates are around 60%; in the UK, around 50%.
If the figure provided in this Arab News report is accurate, it may mean that a majority of those going through the program were those only marginally involved in terrorism, but who were swept up in various anti-terror campaigns. Or, it just might be that it is an effective program, designed specifically to address those factors that lead Saudis toward extremism.
Twelve percent of those who had participated in government-run rehabilitation programs for terrorism have relapsed and returned to terror-related activities, a Ministry of Interior official has revealed.
Maj. Gen. Mansour Al-Turki, spokesman for the Interior Ministry, said officials at the Prince Muhammad bin Naif Center for Counseling and Care are now trying to determine the causes for these failures.
However, he said the program has been largely successful. Over the past two years more than 2,500 people had participated in the programs, with 80 percent not returning to terrorist activities, he said.
Al-Turki rejected the notion that the program itself caused some to relapse and take part in terror-related activities in the Kingdom. “Without the program, thousands of those who were released would have been exploited by terrorist organizations,” he said.
Arab News runs a story on a report from Vision of Humanity that says 82% of the victim of terrorism are to be found in Muslim countries. The perpetrators are primarily Muslim.
Most of the 18,000 people killed were in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nigeria, Syria, and Somalia. Deaths in the rest of the world account for only 16.5% of the total.
A staggering 82 percent of terror-related deaths occurred in five Muslim countries, namely Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nigeria and Syria, in 2013, according to a report published by the Vision of Humanity Foundation.
There has been a substantial increase in the number of terrorist attacks in 2013, according to the Global Terrorism Index (GTI).
Almost 18,000 people were killed that year, a 61-percent increase from the previous year, the foundation said.
The report pointed out that four organizations — Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, Boko Haram and the Islamic State (IS) — were behind most of the terrorist attacks that year.
“About 90 percent of attacks took place in countries with gross human rights violations,” said the report.
Asharq Alawsat reports on the statement by Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Interior that identified ISIS as the perpetrator of the murderous attack on a Shi’ite gathering in Al-Ahsa that killed seven. Direct orders for the attack were given by ISIS leadership, the Ministry claims.
Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat—Saudi Arabia’s Interior Ministry has announced that the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) ordered the attack on a Shi’ite shrine in the small town of Dalwah in the country’s Al-Ahsa governorate earlier this month, which resulted in the deaths of seven Saudi citizens.
Three masked gunmen attacked worshipers at a Shi’ite Husseiniya (meeting house) in the east of the country earlier this month. Riyadh launched a nationwide counterterrorist operation following the attack to track down those responsible, arresting a total of 77 people in successive raids across the country.
The Saudi Interior Ministry announced on Monday that the attack on Dalwah was directly ordered by ISIS, and that the terrorist cell’s leader—as well as three other members of the group—have direct links to the terrorist group that is spreading throughout Iraq and Syria.
Saudi Interior Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Mansour Al-Turki said that the unnamed head of the terrorist cell had received specific orders from abroad including the target and timing of the attack.
“ISIS is working to destroy everything that it can to incite fitna and chaos in society and destroy the stability of the Kingdom by targeting innocent citizens, as well as religious figures, government officials and government and security infrastructure,” he said.
“Fitna,” an Arabic term meaning “sedition” or “civil strife,” is often associated with particular religious connotations or conflicts between different religious groups or sects. The attack on Al-Ahsa targeted Saudi Shi’ites, with many observers warning this could set off sectarian violence between Saudi citizens. However, the attack was roundly condemned by Saudi Sunni and Shi’ite religious leaders, who have called for steadfastness and unity in the face of such attacks.
Mshari Al-Zaydi comments on the attack and how it has resulted in a strengthening of national sentiment rather than providing a divisive wedge aimed to split Sunnis from Shi’as within the country. Given the large number of the attackers who had already been arrested for terroristic activities, he suggests that the government may wish to re-evaluate its current approach to dealing with terrorist. Recidivism rates for any rehabilitation program tend to be high, but in the case of terrorism, the costs can be inordinately high.
ISIS and Al-Ahsa
The long-awaited statement from the Saudi Interior Ministry on the attack on the village of Dalwah in the country’s Al-Ahsa province has finally been issued, shedding more light on this horrific crime.
Before we go into this, let me just say that this dangerous crime targeting innocent people in Dalwah sought to incite sectarian conflict in Saudi Arabia. However, it actually ended up having the opposite effect. In the aftermath of the incident we saw popular and official alignment under the banner of national solidarity and the protection of civil peace.
Some well-known figures who have made a habit of sectarian incitement tried via social media to muddy the waters and put forward a false picture of what happened, speculating that this was not a political or terrorist crime, but that it contained personal dimensions. These so-called “preachers” and media figures are like the intellectual writers who appeared during the cultural Sahwa (Islamic Awakening) period in the late 1980s, who thought that what they were doing would make things better, but ultimately had the opposite effect.
It was always clear that the terrorist attack on the village of Dalwah in Al-Ahsa had all the hallmarks of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). This is something that I said openly at the time, when others would preface talk about this crime by saying, “if it turns out to be a terrorist attack in the first place.” This is nonsense; for if it wasn’t ISIS, then who do they think was responsible? The Japanese Red Army? Basque Separatists?
Arab News reports that a Saudi Special Criminal Court — a court designed to hear terrorism cases — has sentenced three of those responsible for the 2004 terrorist attack on a residential compounds in Riyadh and the Eastern Province. Victims of the attacks included British, Indian, Swedish, Egyptian, South African, Sri Lankan, and Filipino citizens, as well as Saudis.
3 sentenced to death for Riyadh, Alkhobar terror attacks
JEDDAH: MD AL-SULAMI
A special criminal court in Riyadh has sentenced to death three members of a terror cell for killing 20 people and injuring 35 others at the Oasis Residential compound in Alkhobar in the Eastern Province, and the Al-Mohayya complex in Riyadh in separate attacks. Five were each handed 30-year jail terms.
The victims of the terror attacks included BBC photographer Simon Cumbers. His colleague Frank Gardner was critically wounded and is now wheelchair-bound. There were also Saudi civilians and policemen among the victims.
The first defendant, N. Boqami, chief of Cell 86, said Al-Qaeda had assigned him and others to storm the Oasis complex in 2004. They had been told that US forces had kidnapped and detained several Sunni Iraqi women during the 2003 invasion.
However, he denied all other 27 charges against him, including storming into a facility of the APICORP and the Oasis compound carrying grenades, assault rifles and revolvers on May 29 and holding 45 hostages. The state contends that he was accompanied by Al-Qaeda members Turki Al-Motairi and Abdullah Al-Sobaie during the operation.
Saudi Gazette translates a piece from the Arabic daily Al-Madinah in which the writer warns that extremists groups are turning the word “Islamic” into a warning flag. The groups take a well-known brand and convert it to their own uses while completely ignoring what the brand is supposed to represent. As a result, would-be consumers need to do more than just accept the branding and pay attention to what’s really being sold.
Unfortunately, the point of the article seems to have gone over the head of commenters to the piece. They’re sold on the brand, no questions asked or even considered.
Beware of the ‘Islamists’
Qaisar Metawea | Al-Madinah
WE are, by our very nature, a conservative Muslim society. We, therefore, feel attracted toward anything Islamic.
With bad intentions, some of us have used others’ natural love for Islam and for everything Islamic to make personal, sectarian, political, social or commercial gains.
Some of the exploiters of our love for everything Islamic started using the word “Islamic” to defend their unholy actions and ideas against any critique. They will begin their conversation with you by using the word “Islamic” to tie themselves to Islam and to make you believe that they are the sole representatives of this great religion.
An exploiter of Islam will easily convince you that he is a true Muslim even if he abuses, attacks or kills because these abhorrent deeds are an “Islamic” demand.
Saudi analyst Fahad Nazer’s commentary on the attack on Shi’ite worshipers in Al-Ahsa runs in “The Hill,” an online news site aimed at US Capitol Hill. He points out not only the swift response by Saudi security personnel, but the widespread condemnation of the attack on the minority Shi’a population. From the highest levels of government to the man-on-the-street, the attack was seen as an atrocity.
He notes, too, that the Saudi government is taking efforts to reach out to the Shi’a community though those activities are not spelled out in the article.
A ruthlessly executed, deliberately timed attack by masked gunmen against a Shia religious center in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province earlier this month has caused some observers to maintain that it portends the spillover into the kingdom of the sectarian violence that has devastated both Syria and Iraq. There is little doubt that this unprecedented attack could have long-term repercussions for Sunni-Shia relations inside Saudi Arabia as well as far-reaching ramifications for the international community’s efforts against global terrorism. However, the Saudi public’s revulsion at the attack and widespread calls for “unity” from both Sunnis and Shia, in addition to the government’s quick actions and unequivocal rhetoric may actually usher in a new, more positive chapter in the Kingdom’s long-strained Sunni-Shia relations.
Nevertheless, it is clear that in the coming weeks and months, the Saudi government will have to utilize every tool at its disposal and rely on its long experience in the field of counterterrorism to prevent a repeat of this type of sectarian violence, while taking conciliatory measures towards its Shia citizens – as it has done already – to forestall a serious rupture in its often tenuous relations with them.
The attack against a Husseiniya – a Shia religious community center – in the Shia-majority governorship of Al Ahsa in Eastern Saudi Arabia has both shocked and repulsed Saudis for its brazenness, brutality and clear intent to foment sectarian strife.
Not only did the perpetrators pick the eve of the holiest Shia religious observance of Ashura, which commemorates the seventh century “martyrdom” of Prophet Muhammad’s grandson, Hussein – marking the beginning of the still extant “schism” between Sunnis and Shia – they also displayed the ruthlessness that has become the hallmark of Al Qaeda and its offshoots. Several of those killed and injured were in fact children.
Salman Aldossary, Editor-in-Chief of Asharq Alawsat, writes more on the fact that the Saudi government is condemning the attack on Shi’ite worshipers in the Eastern Province by Sunni extremists. It truly is noteworthy and a first of its kind.
Aldossary is a bit too sanguine about how inclusive the Saudi government has been toward its Shi’ite citizens, though. Certain — Shi’a — sections of the Eastern Province were put pretty far down the infrastructure development list. The Shi’ites have had problems getting permission to build new mosques while there seems to be no limit on Sunni ability to do so. Textbooks deprecated Shi’ism and its followers and taught only Sunni orthodoxy. There are still barriers facing Shi’ites in obtaining certain government jobs. In calling protests by the Shi’ite population “provocations by a foreign power,” the government has clouded the ability to distinguish legitimate protest from foreign interference: any protest is cast as Iran’s fingers in the pie.
This could be a start to significant change. It’s a significant act, but it needs to be followed up with more acts that show that the government truly intends to be inclusive.
The Crime that Changed the Face of Saudi Arabia
Last week, the winds of change blew with a vengeance in Saudi Arabia, when armed terrorists opened fire on visitors to a Shi’ite Husseiniyah (meeting house) in the Al-Ahsa province, killing eight people, among them three children. True, this is not the first time Saudi Arabia has witnessed a crime of this nature, where innocent civilians and children have lost their lives. In fact, it has seen even worse. But it is the first time such terrorist acts have played on the country’s dissonant sectarian chord in such an ugly and dangerous way, in an attempt to fan the flames of sedition and strife between its people. It is also the first time Saudi Arabia’s Grand Mufti, and its entire Council of Religious Scholars, have come out in defense of Saudi Shi’ites in this way, and they were joined by all groups in society—unequivocally and without pretense.
It is not surprising for us in Saudi Arabia to witness Sunni members of the country’s security forces giving their lives in order to protect their fellow Shi’ite brothers. Nor is it surprising for us to witness the country’s interior minister traveling to the site of the attack to pay his respects to the families of those killed. The real surprise here, in my opinion, is that the forces seeking to incite sectarian hatred and strife between Saudis have not, on this occasion, succeeded in doing so among the vast majority of the population. This time, it was the love of Saudis for their country and their depth of feeling and sadness over the tragedy that befell their fellow citizens, that prevailed—and not the “sectarian project” that has been insidiously at work in the country for years. This time it failed miserably, and the attack in Al-Ahsa—whose perpetrators no doubt thought the incident would help further their cause—may well be the knockout punch that will end this sectarian project once and for all.
There is no denying that there are still transgressions being committed against some Shi’ites in Saudi Arabia; but we must of course make the distinction between transgressions sanctioned by the state and those committed by individuals, who no doubt think that through these actions they are upholding their “rights,” when in fact they are committing an affront to the law in a most blatant manner.
In his column for Arab News Mshari Al-Zaydi counts out the toll of terrorist attacks in the Arab world over the past week. He uses that count to excoriate Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Islamic Affairs for not following its own rules in dealing with religious extremism in the mosques over which it claims control. With over 94,000 mosques in the country, it seems impossible for the authorities to monitor them in order to prevent extremist messages being fed to worshipers.
The column is a good example of how Saudi media relies on the readers’ understanding of issues in such a way that it can avoid actually stating facts or naming names. When he refers to the attack in Al-Ahsa, he means — but does not say — attacks on Shi’a taking part in Ashoura ceremonies. The reader is expected to know that a Husseiniya is a Shi’ite thing and that Al-Ahsa is one of the informal centers of the Shi’ite population. He does not say the attackers were Sunnis — the reader should know that, but won’t find that fact stated explicitly in media reports.
It is heartening, though, to see the Saudi religious establishment condemning sectarian violence, even if obliquely. This is something it should have been doing 50 years ago. It could not, however, because it supported the reasons, if not all of the tactics, and it became an informal government policy. Just another thing that was not stated bluntly, but simply understood. The country now gets to reap the results of what it had permitted to be sown.
A Week of Terrorist Attacks
In just one week, we have seen terrorist attacks in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Tunisia, Syria and Iraq.
In Saudi Arabia, a group of militants attacked citizens in Al-Ahsa, killing and injuring a group of people who had gathered at a Shi’ite Husseiniya (meeting house). The gunmen, along with those who assisted this terrorist operation, were quickly pursued by Saudi security forces. One police officer and two soldiers?defenders of the nation—were killed in the subsequent counterterror response.
In Tunisia, we saw a new form of terrorism with gunmen targeting a bus transporting soldiers, resulting in the death of five.
In Egypt, there has been a series of explosions and attacks this week, not least an attack on a train that killed at least four people.
This is a summary of the events of just one week in our region. However, the most striking thing is that while terrorism is nothing new, the terrorist acts that we have seen this week have all been unprecedented in one form or another.
In Saudi Arabia, we witnessed an excellent response to the Ahsa crime from the state and the people. Saudi security forces, utilizing two decades of counterterror experience, did their duty competently while the media also played a crucial role. Saudi Arabia’s judiciary has also played an important role and we have noticed the stringent sentences that have been issued recently against terrorism-related crimes after years of deliberation.