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ISIS Attacks – No Respite

Shantanu Roy-Chaudhury writes: The disbelief and backlash from Muslims all over the world condemning the attacks may act as the adhesive required to combat this growing threat.

Suicide bombers carried out attacks on the 4th of July in Saudi Arabia towards the end of the holy month of Ramadan. The three attacks in Jeddah, Qatif, and the holy city of Medina came after a bloody week in which there had already been terrorist attacks in Turkey, Bangladesh, and Iraq, resulting in major casualties.[1] Seven people are believed to have been killed and two wounded in these coordinated attacks.[2] The attack in Jeddah took place near the U.S. consulate, and outside a Shiite mosque in Qatif. The deadliest attack, claiming the lives of four security officers, took place near Prophet’s Mosque in Medina, which is considered the second-holiest city in Islam after Mecca. So far, no group has claimed responsibility for the attacks, though suspicion points towards ISIS, as their leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has called for attacks against Saudi Arabia which is taking part in the U.S. – led coalition bombings in Syria and Iraq. Due to the loss of territory in Iraq, ISIS had also called on its followers to carry out attacks during the holy month of Ramadan. These targets seem to be more symbolic than anything else as they were sectarian (Shiite mosque), anti-Western (U.S. consulate), and anti-regime (prophet’s mosque).[3]

Setting aside differences, world leaders, politicians, groups, and activists expressed their outrage including Javad Zarif, Iran’s foreign minister who called for Muslim unity.[4] The bombing in Medina was also condemned by the Afghan Taliban who stated that it was unacceptable to target the holy site.[5] The Kingdom’s interior ministry stated that nineteen people, consisting of 7 Saudis and 12 Pakistani nationals, have been arrested following these attacks. A 26-year-old Saudi man, Naer Moslem Hammad al-Balawi has been identified as the perpetrator of the Medina attack. The Qatif attack was carried out by three terrorists; Abdul Rahman Saleh Al-Omar, Ibrahim Saleh Al-Omar, and Abdul Karim Ibrahim Al-Hosni. The Jeddah attacker was Abdullah Qalzar Khan, a Pakistani driver who had been living in the city for 12 years.[6] Though these attacks may serve to boost regional recruitments for ISIS, they also signal its long-term intent to seize control of the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, as a caliphate without the holy cities Mecca and Medina, is hardly a caliphate.[7] However, the disbelief and backlash from Muslims all over the world condemning the attacks may act as the adhesive required to combat this growing threat.

End Notes

[1] Daniel Politi, 4th July 2016, Suicide Bombers Strike Three Saudi Cities as Global Wave of Terror Continues, The Slate,http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_slatest/2016/07/04/suicide_bombers_strike_three_saudi_cities_as_global_wave_of_terror_continues.html

[2] AFP, 8th July 2016, 19 People Arrested Over Saudi Attacks Including Medina: Ministry, NDTV, http://www.ndtv.com/world-news/19-people-arrested-over-saudi-attacks-including-medina-ministry-1429189

[3] Clint Watts, 7th July 2016, Horrific ISIS Attacks During Ramadan Disguise a Retreating and Fracturing Terror Group, The Huffington Post, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/clint-watts/isis-attacks-ramadan_b_10838382.html

[4] 6th July 2016, Medina attack: Muslim world reacts after deadly blast, Al Jazeera, http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2016/07/medina-attack-muslim-world-reacts-deadly-blast-160705070354493.html

[5] Margherita Stancati & Ahmed Al Omran, 5th July 2016, Saudi King Speaks Against Extremism After Attacks, The Wall Street Journal, http://www.wsj.com/articles/muslim-leaders-condemn-saudi-attacks-1467744347

[6] Agencies, 8th July 2016, 19, including 12 Pakistanis, arrested over Saudi attacks, The Times of India, http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/middle-east/19-including-12-Pakistanis-arrested-over-Saudi-attacks/articleshow/53109908.cms

[7] Jessica Lewis McFate, Harleen Gambhir, Christopher Kozak, Jennifer Cafarella, and Dina Shahrokhi, May 2016, ISIS Forecast: Ramadan 2016, Middle East Security Report 30, Institute for the Study of War, http://www.understandingwar.org/report/isis-forecast-ramadan-2016

 

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