Commemorating the 15 Saudi terrorists

It came as no surprise that the suicide bomber of the Shiite mosque in Kuwait was a Saudi citizen

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

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It came as no surprise that the suicide bomber of the Shiite mosque in Kuwait was a Saudi citizen, yet it pained everyone. In May, the suicide bombers of the two mosques in eastern Saudi Arabia were also Saudi. A video showed that a terrorist arrested in Iraq was also Saudi, and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has announced that one of its Saudi fighters has been killed.

Meanwhile, last month Al-Nusra Front said one of its field commanders, also Saudi, was killed. In April, an American drone in Yemen killed a Saudi citizen from among Al-Qaeda leaders. The list goes on.

Saudi terrorists threaten Saudi Arabia before any other country

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

The picture I just drew reveals a wave of extremists. Most of those killed or who are still fighting across the world are youths, most under the age of 30. Most Saudi extremists today were children when the Sept. 11 attacks happened. Those attacks shocked Saudi society then, as 15 of those who carried out the crime were Saudi nationals, accompanied by two Emiratis, a Lebanese and an Egyptian.

Back then, the question was why Al-Qaeda chose such a big number from one nationality when it has hundreds of fighters from other nationalities? At the time, we said the organization targeted Saudi Arabia when it attacked the United States in order to pit the two countries against one another. There were fierce calls to punish Riyadh, as many considered the kingdom a source of evil. These calls only dissipated when then-U.S. President George W. Bush chose Iraq as a target for revenge.

The question now is why do the Saudis not fix their society and prevent intellectual deviance? It is clear that those deviants, who are in their thousands, are a product of extremism, otherwise that Saudi national would not have gone to Kuwait based on a mere phone call he received from ISIS. The killer carried out his attack like he was under hypnosis. He blew himself up - killing 27 and injuring 300 - just a few hours after arriving in Kuwait.

Carrying out the attack required no more than issuing an order to head to a place he may have never visited before. The ISIS representative received him at the airport, provided him with an explosive belt, and transported him to the mosque to commit his crime. How many deviants in Saudi Arabia await such phone calls to blow themselves up without question?

Evading responsibility

Extremism is not just Saudi Arabia’s problem, as Tunisia has a large share of fighters among extremist organizations, and does Morocco and dozens of other countries. However, the situation will not improve by evading the truth and making excuses. Extremism has been a problem since politics found its way into mosques in the 1980s, and since clerics began to issue fatwas (religious edicts) regarding political affairs.

Without acknowledging the spread of extremist ideologies, it will not be possible to fight and eliminate terrorism, because whenever extremists are arrested, others will take their place. It is wrong to view this as just a security problem, as it is snowballing into a political crisis. Extremists are a huge threat to their countries’ security as well as to the world’s, and they jeopardize interests and relations.

Some are evading responsibility under the excuse that it is a general problem, and say proof of that is Iran having tens of thousands of extremists fighting in Iraq, Syria and Yemen. The difference between us and Iran is that Saudi terrorists threaten Saudi Arabia before any other country. Iranian terrorists are engaged in systems affiliated with their government, such as the army.

After the Sept. 11 attacks, Riyadh sought to repair the relations that the 15 Saudi hijackers almost destroyed. It succeeded, but with great difficulty. However, a new round of terrorism and blame has now begun.

This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on June 29, 2015.


Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today.

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