“The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is determined, God willing, to strike with an iron fist those who target the minds and attitudes of our youth” Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz
Terrorism is an enormous challenge to the global community and the threat that directly faces the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is multifaceted. In 2016, Saudi Arabia suffered 34 attacks on its soil from a variety of extremist groups, including a trio of simultaneous attacks in July 2016. In total, the country has faced more than 60 known attacks by Al-Qaeda and Daesh, some two dozen of them in the last two years. The Kingdom was a prime target of Osama bin Laden in the 1990s, of Al-Qaeda in the early 2000s, and ISIS today – a group that has called for the eradication of the royal family and the takeover of the Kingdom.
The Kingdom uses all the tools at its disposal to confront these threats: determined military action to defeat terrorist activity, forceful action to counter terrorist financing, innovative efforts to challenge and overcome ideology, theology and messages that underline terror organisations.
During the last decade, the Saudi government has fundamentally restructured its operations to better address national security threats and to prevent terrorist attacks. Much of this activity has been aimed at ridding the Kingdom of terrorists and destroying any ability of militants to operate within the Kingdom.
To do so effectively, Saudi security forces maintain rigorous security standards and undertake continuous training on the latest best practices for combating terrorist threats. Security professionals regularly participate in joint programs throughout the world, including Europe and the United States.
The Saudi government has also implemented counterterrorism measures designed to confront threats in the Kingdom’s dense urban areas. Neighbourhood police units engage and work directly with community members, encourag¬ing citizens to provide tips and leads about suspicious activity.
These activities – training, education, the inclusion of technology and communi¬ty outreach – have allowed Saudi security forces to foil many terrorist plots with¬in the Kingdom and to dismantle Al-Qaeda’s operations. They have also created an unwelcome environment for terrorists and extremists.
Combating Terror Financing
In order to combat the threat posed by terrorist financing, Saudi Arabia has worked diligently to put in place one of the strictest financial control systems in the world. The Kingdom works very closely with its allies on all fronts to destroy terror groups’ access to finan¬cial systems. In recent years, the Kingdom has undertaken a number of mea¬sures to combat money laundering and prevented terrorist financing. The Kingdom has also strengthened its laws, establishing new laws when necessary to ensure that charitable contribu¬tions are not diverted from authentic humanitarian organizations.
“Saudi Arabia is the target of extremists. We have suffered in terms of terrorist attacks, we have suffered in terms of loss of security personnel trying to defend the innocent, we are at the forefront of fighting extremism and terrorism in the region and in the world. And so for somebody to say the Saudis are funding extremism or [that] their ideology is funding extremism is preposterous.”
His Excellency Abel bin Ahmed Al-Jubeir, Foreign Minister
Combating Extremism – Education
From public awareness campaigns to establishing counter-radicalisation and rehabilitation programmes, Saudi Arabia’s “war of ideas” works to instil the concepts of moderation and tolerance, and undermine any intellectual or religious justifications for extremism and terrorism. This multi-faceted campaign aims to protect vulnerable groups, such as young people.
Fighting radical religious beliefs in the Kingdom is an immense challenge. The Kingdom’s counterterrorism-education measures focus on communicating the distinguishing aspects of the true Islamic faith in contrast to those individuals and entities whose actions are focused on the intentional misrepresentation and degradation of its teachings.
In addition, the Kingdom has modernised its educational system and reviewed curriculum materials. The country promotes cultural exchange, sending and paying for tens of thousands of students to attend UK universities as well as universities across the Western world, not only to acquire scholarly and technical know-how and expertise, but to gain exposure to Western belief systems and world views
“Through our close co-operation on counter-terrorism we are succeeding in foiling terrorist plots and a range of threats against citizens in all our countries. For example, intelligence we have received in the past from Saudi Arabia has saved potentially hundreds of lives in the UK.” Prime Minister Theresa May