Counter-Terrorism: The Stealthy Successful Sunni Saudi Suicide Bomber

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July 8, 2015: On June 26th Kuwait suffered its worst ever Islamic terror attack when a Sunni Saudi suicide bomber walked into a Shia mosque and detonated his explosive vest, killing himself and 26 Shia there to pray. Kuwait spends a lot of time, money and effort keeping its local Islamic terrorists under control but this attack came via Saudi Arabia, where police in both countries quickly discovered a new ISIL cell that largely consisted of men with known Islamic terrorist tendencies but who had learned how to conceal their real activities from whatever police surveillance they were under. To make this attack in Kuwait possible it was soon found a complex series of couriers and safe houses was used to move the explosive vest hundreds of kilometers across Saudi Arabia and into Kuwait. The bomber was not a suspected terrorist and because most of the states in Arabia allow free (without needing a visa) movement of their citizens it was easy for the Kuwaiti bomber to just fly in, get picked up by another member of his support team who took him to the mosque and delivered any last minute instructions. Security cameras showed the bomber calmly walking into the mosque, stop near a large group of praying Shia and explode. The only positive thing to come out of all this was that police were able to quickly connect many of the usual suspects (people already identified as potential problems) to this attack, arrest them and begin interrogations and prosecutions.

Kuwait and Saudi Arabia have long had problems with the fact that more of their young Sunni men are being attracted to ISIL than the intelligence and security agencies can keep adequate tabs on. There is no easy solution to this problem. Saudi Arabia thought they had a solution which was based on their belief that Islamic terrorists are suffering from a disease, one that can be cured by the proper psychological treatment. It often works. When it doesn't, the Saudis resort to more forceful cures. This is but one of many different (than in the West) approaches to Islamic radicalism that the Saudis have employed. This has kept the number of Islamic terror attacks miniscule in Saudi Arabia, but not eliminated them the locals attracted to this sort of mayhem.

Saudi Arabia has become a center for research and experimentation on how to halt, and reverse, Islamic radical activity. Despite being the most "Islamic" nation on the planet, and, by law, the most intolerant of other religions, the Saudi royal family has been working to reform Islamic conservatives and radicals for over a century. They don't get much credit for that, but it explains the many Saudi initiatives to detect and rehabilitate Islamic radicals, and prevent Moslems from going that way in the first place. For example, the Saudis are using media and the religious establishment (clerics are on the government payroll) to discredit Islamic radicals. There is also a rehabilitation program for convicted or suspected Islamic terrorists. While this gets criticized, because 10-20 percent of the graduates go back to terrorism, the majority leave Islamic radicalism behind. The reform effort has a big impact on discouraging young Arabs considering Islamic radicalism.

The current enthusiasm for taking on Islamic radicalism began when terrorist bombs began going off after the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq. Al Qaeda condemned Saudi Arabia for standing by and allowing this invasion of the Middle East by non-Moslem troops. Al Qaeda began attacking Saudi targets. Most Saudis promptly turned on the terrorists, and most of these Islamic radicals fled the country. The Saudis gave Interpol the names of these terrorists, and asked for help in tracking down these men. The Saudis were not happy with the lack of cooperation from Syria and Yemen in tracking down Islamic radicals. Yemen eventually changed its attitude but the Syrians, largely because of their alliance with Iran, have dragged their feet. In the four years after 2003, nearly two hundred people died in Saudi Arabia as a result of Islamic terrorism, and most Saudis remained hostile to Islamic radicalism because of this. In those four years, the Saudis basically destroyed al Qaeda within the kingdom and reduced the amount of Islamic terrorist activity to very low levels. .

At the same time many Saudis, then and now, blame the United States for all this, seeing the invasion of Iraq as creating an opportunity for Islamic terrorists to increase recruiting, and gain practical experience while carrying out attacks in Iraq. Saudis are also reluctant to admit that their country is still a major source of support for Islamic terrorism. While the Saudis have cracked down on Islamic radicals in schools and mosques, as well as trying to prevent financial contributions to terrorist causes, much support for Islamic radicals still comes from Saudi Arabia. The Saudis also downplayed the participation of young Saudis in terrorist operations in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and elsewhere. The Saudis insisted that few of the foreign terrorists in Iraq were Saudis. But captured al Qaeda records, showed that, during the peak years (2005-7), some 40 percent of foreign terrorists in Iraq were Saudi. Evidence like this gave the anti-terrorist factions in the kingdom more clout. The Saudis were able to shut down public preaching by pro-terrorist clergy, and went after wealthy Saudis that were using their businesses to pass money on to "Islamic charities" that were actually fronts for Islamic terrorist fund raising.

Many Saudis still cannot believe that 79 percent of the 911 terrorists were Saudis. The ruling family believes it, and is heavily funding the Arab Reform Movement, which insists that the social, economic and political problems in the Arab world are internal, not the result of foreign interference. This might appear to be an odd thing for the Saudi monarchy to get behind. But the Saud family did not manage to create their kingdom back in the 1920s, by ignoring reality. The Saudi royals may appear a bit medieval to Westerners, but that's only because they must get along with some pretty old-school groups. The Saudis believe that it's best to keep talking to your enemies, even if you might have to turn around and kill them eventually.

 

 


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