Many fronts in war against extremism

Revelations from Riyadh are a reminder of the need to fight terrorists in every possible way

The war against extremism is international and requires the collaboration of all countries. Antonio Satta / AP
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ISIL's latest alleged attacks on Saudi Arabia's capital Riyadh are a reminder of the serious threat posed by extremists to the region as a whole – and to the kingdom in particular. As The National reported yesterday, the Saudi interior ministry has announced the arrest of a young man who is suspected of having acted on orders from ISIL in Syria when he killed two policemen and injured two others in separate attacks. It was, said Saudi interior ministry spokesman Gen Mansour Al Turki, the fifth attack orchestrated by ISIL on security forces and foreigners in the kingdom.

These are disturbing revelations. The Saudi authorities allege that the detained suspect, Yazid bin Mohammed Abdulrahman Abu Niyan, and his accomplice, Nawaf bin Sharif Samir Al Anzi, who is on the run, were planning further attacks. Both men are Saudi, a further disquieting fact. Add to that the shrewd calculations by those who study such matters that Saudi Arabia is the crown jewel in the so-called caliphate that ISIL wants to build, and the need for vigilance has never been more pronounced.

The kingdom has already faced several attacks in recent months. That includes the murder of three Saudi guards on the border with Iraq in January by four suspected ISIL members. Late last year, the Saudi authorities announced that they had arrested 135 people suspected of conspiring to carry out terrorist attacks inside the country. All of them had received training abroad.

The revelations from Riyadh are a grim reminder of the need to fight the war against extremism with every means available. This is not Saudi Arabia’s battle alone but a transnational fight against terrorist groups. Of course, the fight will not be easy and, in order for it to succeed, it will require collaboration between countries across the region and further afield. But it was precisely for this purpose that Saudi Arabia and others in the region joined the US-led coalition against ISL in September. The coalition’s aim is to target, degrade and destroy its positions in Syria and Iraq and stop the group’s spread.

That said, the war against extremism needsto be waged on many fronts. The fightback must include education, public messaging and canny ways of communicating with young people to win hearts and minds in what is the biggest threat to regional stability in a generation.