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Saudi Arabia’s interior ministry said on 7 July it had arrested three brothers suspected of being linked to the 26 June suicide bombing in Kuwait carried out by the Islamic State extremist group. One of the three was arrested in Kuwait, and is in the process of being extradited. The second was arrested in Taif governorate, in the region of Mecca.

Kuwait | Saudi Arabia
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On a day of horrific terrorist attacks on three continents, a young Saudi suicide bomber walked into a Shiite mosque in Kuwait filled with 2,000 worshippers during Friday prayers on 26 June, and blew himself up. The attack, quickly claimed by the Wilayat Najd (Najd province) branch of the Islamic State jihadist group (IS) that conducted similar attacks in Saudi Arabia in May, killed 27 people and injured 227, according to the Ministry of Interior; Kuwait was left reeling from the shock of its worst terrorist attack in decades.

Kuwait
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The US Department of Defense said on 13 June that it had transferred six detainees, all of them understood to be Yemeni, from the Guantánamo Bay detention facility to Oman. The US is looking to close the facility, where 116 detainees remain. “The United States is grateful to the government of Oman for its humanitarian gesture,” the department said in a statement, adding that the two governments had co-ordinated to make sure the transfers took place “consistent with appropriate security and humane treatment measures”.

Oman
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Islamic State (IS) militants were quick to claim responsibility for a suicide bombing at a packed Shiite mosque in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province on 22 May that killed 21 people and injured many more. It was the worst terrorist attack inside the kingdom since 2004 (see From the archive, page 13), and the first attack there to be claimed by IS, whose local branch issued a statement warning Shiites of “black days” ahead.The attack, during prayers at the Ali Ibn Abi Talib mosque in the village of Al-Qudayh, was followed on 29 May by another, also directed at Shiites worshipping at Friday prayers.

Saudi Arabia
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…For once, Saudi Arabia will not hit back with a state-funded campaign extolling the kingdom’s virtues: in contrast to the big media spend after the 11 September 2001 attacks, which proved largely self-defeating, GSN hears that the government has pulled some major advertising projects, preferring to keep a low profile while security forces work to eradicate underground groups. Crown Prince Abdullah Bin Abdelaziz’s media-savvy advisor Adel Al-Jubeir and the big two ambassadors, Prince Bandar Bin Sultan in Washington and Prince Turki Al-Faisal in London, have been spinning the message that terrorism is a problem, but the security forces can get on top of it.

Saudi Arabia
Issue 993 - 22 May 2015

Saudi Arabia: Ambush arrests

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French police have arrested around a dozen people suspected of involvement in the 2014 ambush of a Saudi prince’s convoy. The prince, widely reported to be Abdelaziz Bin Fahd, was travelling to the airport when masked gunmen swooped, stealing a Mercedes and later torching and abandoning it about 40km from the scene. According to an 18 May report by French news agency AFP, the suspects were picked up in the Paris region; a police source said some of them had been quickly identified after the carjacking, but that investigators had lacked evidence to detain them. Officials at the time said the car had around $280,000 in cash and embassy documents inside it.

Saudi Arabia
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It has been almost a year since the Islamic State (IS) Sunni extremist group overran Mosul, plunging Iraq into crisis and prompting the United States, Gulf states and other allies to start an air campaign against IS in both Iraq and Syria. The US-led operation has included giving support on the ground, in the form of advisors and training to hone the urban warfare skills of Iraqi army and Kurdish Peshmerga forces. Iran has been another major player in Baghdad’s efforts to push back IS, sending its own military advisers to the army and Peshmerga.

Iraq
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The success of the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF), Shia militia and other allies in regaining control of Tikrit will provide critical indicators of Iraq’s ability to roll back the challenge of Islamic State (IS) and the Sunni rebellion that in 2014 allowed Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi to anoint himself ‘Caliph Ibrahim’ in Mosul. Western reporting of the assault on Salahaddin province, launched on 1 March, focused on prime minister Haider Al-Abadi’s insistence that a restructured ISF, its Shia militia allies and their all too obvious Iranian handlers should do everything possible not to alienate the region’s Sunni tribes and others who may dislike IS but have even more reason to fear their ‘liberators’.

Issue 987 - 19 February 2015

UAE: Rejoining IS campaign

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The UAE said it had taken part in a series of airstrikes against Islamic State targets on 10 February, signalling its return to the campaign. Abu Dhabi is understood to have suspended its participation in the US-led air campaign in December, after Jordanian pilot Muath Al-Kasasbeh was captured by extremists when his F-16 crashed over north-eastern Syria, wanting Washington to guarantee better search-and-rescue efforts. News that Al-Kasasbeh had been burned alive by the extremists emerged in early February.

United Arab Emirates (UAE)
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Several countries suspended flights to and from Baghdad International Airport on 26 January after bullets hit a flydubai passenger plane during landing, slightly damaging the fuselage and causing minor wounds to a six-year-old girl. An airport source told GSN Turkish Airlines, Royal Jordanian and Middle East Airlines had resumed flights, and that UAE and other Gulf airlines planned to do so on 5 February.

Iraq
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Attention turned again to Yemen after Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) spokesman Nasser Bin Ali Al-Ansi claimed responsibility for the 7 January massacre at the Paris offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, in a video released on 14 January by AQAP’s media arm Al-Malahim. Ansi’s claim that AQAP had planned the “blessed battle of Paris”, as he referred to the attack that left 12 people dead, tallied with the claims of the two attackers, Chérif and Saïd Kouachi: Chérif made a similar claim in an interview with French television channel BFMTV, while he was under siege in Dammartin-en-Goële, where the brothers were killed on 9 January.

Yemen
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No one expected a quiet year in the Gulf, given the ongoing conflicts and ugly groundswell of sectarianism throughout the wider region. But while much of the news agenda in 2014 was filled with foreseeable preoccupations – squabbles between Qatar and the rest of the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC), the further deterioration of the situation in Yemen, tentative rapprochement with Iran, ongoing tensions in Bahrain, questions over succession – the main event of the year came as a surprise. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL)’s takeover of Mosul in June, and the group’s subsequent seizing of swathes of Iraq, cut the year into two halves: before ISIL, and after.

Free

Saudi Arabia’s strategy to combat extremism – the Prevention, Rehabilitation and Aftercare (PRAC) strategy – developed in the aftermath of the May 2003 bombings of residential compounds in Riyadh. It involves several ministries, but is led by the Ministry of Interior – specifically Prince Mohammed Bin Nayef, who has been minister since November 2012, and was previously assistant to the interior minister for security affairs (since 1999). Sometimes discussed as a contender for the Saudi throne, Mohammed Bin Nayef rose to prominence in mid-2003 when jihadist Ali Abedlrahman Al-Ghamdi handed himself over to him; the extent of the prince’s personal commitment was further showcased in 2009, when he survived an assassination attempt by Yemeni-born Abdullah Al-Asiri

Saudi Arabia
Issue 982 - 27 November 2014

UAE: List of terror groups

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On 15 November, the UAE cabinet approved a list of 85 groups it said were terrorist organisations, including a number of western-based organisations as well as groups more widely accepted as terrorists. While there is little debate about the inclusion of groups such as Al-Qaeda or the Islamic State on such lists, the inclusion of Islamist non-governmental organisations and think tanks is surprising; such groups seem in the main to have been chosen because of their links to the Muslim Brotherhood, whose affiliates the UAE has been targeting with particular vigour since 2011.

United Arab Emirates (UAE)
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In mid-October, Saudi Arabia’s Makkah Online news site ran a story saying that 334 people who had completed the kingdom’s terrorist rehabilitation programme had returned to terrorist groups. Quoting an “official source”, the paper said there was a recidivism rate of around 12% among participants, and around 19.2% among those who had been transferred from detention in Guantánamo Bay. In the past, the Saudis have boasted of even lower recidivism rates. In 2008, Prince Mohammed Bin Nayef Bin Abdelaziz – interior minister since 2012 and the standard-bearer for the relatively high-profile Saudi deradicalisation programme – claimed that, of 3,000 people who had taken part, only around 35 had gone back to their terrorist ways; 3% recidivism is another figure often quoted.

Saudi Arabia