A history of domestic terrorism in Saudi Arabia

The following article is based on a series of reports by Al Arabiya News Channel on terrorism in Saudi Arabia.

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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.

The same year saw another car bomb explosion that targeted another residential compound in Riyadh. The November attack killed 17 people and injured more than 100 others.

In 2004, four separate attacks targeted both government buildings and civilians. In May six people were killed in an attack on a company in the Red Sea city of Yanbu while in Khobar, a militant attack on a residential compound left more than 20 people dead.

In December the same year, militants attempted to storm the U.S. Consulate resulting in a gunfight that killed two of the attackers, and the arrest of six others.

Al-Qaeda also attempted to target the Saudi royal family in 2009 when Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef bin Abdulaziz - then the country’s minister of interior - survived a failed assassination attempt by an Al-Qaeda member.

The two most recent attacks were claimed by loyalists of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militant group and targeted mosques where members of the cities’ Shiite community pray.

Ali Al Tawati, a Jeddah-based political analyst and analyst, said the attacks were an attempt to cause a sectarian rift in the kingdom.

“They wanted to create some kind of social rift between Sunnis and Shiites to jeopardize the national unity,” he told Al Arabiya News.

“They [militants] do not care about national unity or national borders,” he said, adding that “their thinking is global, they think of an Islamist brotherhood which trespasses borders.”

Separately, Al Tawati said one of the main challenges that face Saudi authorities are what he described as “incubators of fanaticism.”

“They are separated all over the country, sometimes run by very well-known scholars who give a face to the public and have another face which you don’t see,” he said.

“Those incubators build new generations of fanatics.”

“They are building them, in a way to think always, metaphysically…all they are taught is to detonate explosive belts and kill the kafirs (infidels).”

To militants, the definition of an infidel is “very wide.”

“People who watch TV are kafir, those who listen to music, those without a beard are kafirs, so the concept of very wide, and it’s not just people from other religions and other sects,” he said.