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Saudi Bristles As Turmoil Looms Large In The Middle East

Saudi Bristles As Turmoil Looms Large In The Middle East

The Kingdom is wary of the growing influence that the Islamic State is wielding across the region.

Political unrest has almost become a staple across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region over the last few years, thanks to the so-called Arab Spring uprising that began in 2011.

However, 2014 – so far – has seen the region witness an unprecedented level of turmoil, whether it’s the alarmingly fast-growing threat posed by militants Islamic State (IS) in Iraq; the escalation of violence between Palentine and Israel; the continuing unrest in Syria that is spilling onto Lebanon or the sporadic attacks in Libya.

The GCC, as part of the wider Middle East, has managed to shield itself from the chaos around it, but is increasingly fearing the impact that the regional situation will have.

Saudi Arabia in particular is wary of the growing influence that the IS is wielding across the region, with concerns the movement may reach its borders. Reports claim that the hardline militant group is currently on a major recruitment drive within the Kingdom, using social media as a tool to lure young Saudis.

Interior Ministry spokesman Major General Mansour Turki told Reuters that around 2,500 Saudis were believed to be involved in militant activities abroad, including in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Afghanistan.

However, the country is taking steps to protect itself – earlier this year Saudi’s King Abdullah ordered all “necessary measures” to protect the Kingdom against potential “terrorist threats.”

The crackdown has been strong since then; last week, the Kingdom announced that 88 people, more than half of them Saudis, had been detained on suspicion of plotting “terrorist” attacks at home and abroad.

In May this year, Saudi officials arrested 62 suspects, including 35 Saudi nationals, who allegedly had links to terrorists in Yemen and Syria and were accused of planning attacks on government installations, foreign interests and security officials.

Last month, the Kingdom also deployed 30,000 soldiers at its border with Iraq.

In a statement released late August, Saudi Arabia’s Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz Al al-Sheikh – the country’s highest religious authority –derided extremist militant groups.

“Extremist and militant ideas and terrorism which spread decay on Earth, destroying human civilisation, are not in any way part of Islam, but are enemy number one of Islam, and Muslims are their first victims,” he said in a statement carried by the official Saudi Press Agency.

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