Counter-Terrorism: Mecca Madness


December 18,2008: Saudi Arabia interrupted an al Qaeda plot to stage terrorist attacks during this year's hajj (the annual pilgrimage to Mecca). This year, on December 6-10, three million pilgrims showed up (a huge increase from the 100,000 a year that came around the time the al Saud family seized control of Mecca and Medina in the 1920s.) Last year, Saudi police arrested over 300 terrorist suspects, and this year, nearly a thousand have been rounded up.

To foil al Qaeda, which still has many fans in the region, the Saudis set up a network of 10,000 vidcams in the areas where the pilgrims would be moving around, praying and living. In addition to over 100,000 security personnel, 20,000 troops were brought in. The U.S. and Saudi Arabia have developed very close ties when it comes to counter-terrorism, especially since al Qaeda declared war on the kingdom in 2003. That effort, and over a dozen bloody incidents, went on for three years. The Saudis managed to demonize al Qaeda (mainly by just publicizing the terrorist attacks, and all the dead Moslems who were the victims). But the Saudis also modernized their security forces, and did it quite rapidly and thoroughly (especially compared to how things are usually done in the region). The U.S. provided lots of technical and practical advice, as well as access to lots of intelligence and security technology.

Saudi Arabia is now a very hostile place for Islamic terrorists, or anyone the Saudis don't like. Eventually, the U.S. will be criticized for helping the Saudi aristocracy (the country is an absolute monarchy) create a more efficient police state. But for the moment, everyone is grateful that the local Islamic terrorists have been defanged. All the increased security also made it easier to run the Hajj, with fewer injures and loss of life.



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