ISIS’ infiltration within our societies

Without balanced work to combat terror on military, ideological and media fronts, we will never be able to create strong tools to root out terrorism

Turki Aldakhil

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Not a single day passes without a news piece related to violence, while politicians are continuously speaking at press conferences about terrorism and its motives. Blood has become the daily bread in many Muslim societies, as well as the rest of the world.

This is why Saudi Arabia has established major alliances in the region. The first alliance was aimed at restoring legitimacy in Yemen through Operation “Decisive Storm” and Operation “Renewal of Hope,” while another alliance of 40 Muslim-majority countries was formed to battle terrorism.

In a press conference held towards the end of last year, Saudi Deputy Crown Prince and Defense Minister Prince Mohammad bin Salman said terrorism must be fought on military, ideological and media fronts. This is the basis to discuss any strategy related to fighting terrorism. Gulf countries have been militarily successful in the war against terrorism; however the media and ideological fronts require a lot of work and refinement. They have been the weakest links in the war against terrorist organizations ever since the war on al-Qaeda was launched and up until the present day war against ISIS.

Without balanced work to combat terror on military, ideological and media fronts, we will never be able to create strong tools to root out terrorism

Turki Al-Dakhil

Let's take the deadly terrorist suicide bombing at a mosque in the southern Saudi city of Abha on August 6 of last year as an example. Shocking information revealed by the interior ministry a few days ago stated that an explosive belt was transferred by a woman called Abeer al-Harbi, while a soldier betrayed the oath he made to protect his country and cooperated with the terrorist cell's leader to facilitate the suicide bomber’s entry into the mosque. This soldier then concealed his act of betrayal by assisting his colleagues after the attack.

Influence and infiltration

This influence and infiltration of terrorism is a factor of power for a group that uses soft power to almost always achieve guaranteed goals. Without collaboration on media and ideological fronts to support military work on the ground, terrorist cells will become more expansive and their violence will be worse than that of the al-Muannasiya and al-Dhramah cells, which carried out the Abha mosque attack.

These terrorist cells exposed by the interior ministry were linked through their infiltration of several institutions. Recruiting a woman, Harbi, was an indicator that the operation was cautiously and maliciously planned.

Military work cannot address the ideological aspect of fighting terrorism, which is linked to education, or even terrorist recruitment of members from the same family. Al-Qaeda and ISIS are known to have recruited several members of the same family, one example being the al-Tuwaijri family. Abduljabbar bin Homood bin Abdulaziz al-Tuwaijri who was convicted of targeting military and security headquarters in Saudi Arabia, was executed on January 3.

There was also Abdullah Abdulaziz Ibrahim al-Tuwaijri who blew himself up in Abqaiq in eastern Saudi Arabia on February 2006 and Abdulrahman Abdullah Suleiman al-Tuwaijri, the suicide bomber who blew himself up outside a mosque in the Ahsa region last Friday. Abdulrahman had been previously arrested for participating in protests demanding the release of men and women detained on terrorist charges. His brother had joined ISIS in Iraq.

Extremist organizations work within a huge network. Security forces may succeed at repelling these organizations on the ground, but it's not their task to perform the role of educational institutions and alter educational strategies or break the media's stubborn routines. These are joint tasks that should be shared by governmental and non-governmental institutions and the wider society. This is what Prince Mohammad bin Salman implied during the press conference he held to announce the formation of the Islamic military alliance.

Without balanced work to combat terror on military, ideological and media fronts, we will never be able to create strong tools to root out terrorism.

This article was first published by al-Bayan newspaper on Feb. 3, 2016.

Turki Al-Dakhil is the General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. He began his career as a print journalist, covering politics and culture for the Saudi newspapers Okaz, Al-Riyadh and Al-Watan. He then moved to pan-Arab daily Al-Hayat and pan-Arab news magazine Al-Majalla. Turki later became a radio correspondent for the French-owned pan-Arab Radio Monte Carlo and MBC FM. He proceeded to Elaph, an online news magazine and Alarabiya.net, the news channel’s online platform. Over a ten-year period, Dakhil’s weekly Al Arabiya talk show “Edaat” (Spotlights) provided an opportunity for proponents of Arab and Islamic social reform to make their case to a mass audience. Turki also owns Al Mesbar Studies and Research Centre and Madarek Publishing House in Dubai. He has received several awards and honors, including the America Abroad Media annual award for his role in supporting civil society, human rights and advancing women’s roles in Gulf societies. He tweets @TurkiAldakhil.

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