Combating the ISIS Crisis

Islamic State’s claim – that Friday’s mosque attack in Saudi Arabia, by a suicide bomber, which killed 21 people and injured 81 others, was their own doing – cannot be taken lightly.

The fact that Saudi authorities have now arrested 26 members of a cell affiliated to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), shows us two things.

Firstly, on a positive note, the seriousness of Saudi Arabian government in dealing with this.

And secondly, on a negative note, the huge length to which the terror group’s tentacles have now reached.

Saudi Interior Ministry statement, carried by the official Saudi Press Agency on Saturday, had said: “The cell was discovered last month, and so far 26 members, all Saudi nationals, have been arrested.”

Separately – and though not through this statement – the Interior Ministry also revealed that five members of the same cell were responsible for the death of a Saudi soldier two weeks ago.

So, ISIS activities cannot be expected to end with this Friday’s killing at the Ali Ibn Abi Taleb mosque in Qudayh in Qatif, in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia.

In fact, if we go by ISIS’ own statement on the group’s Al-Bayan radio station, soon after this Friday incident, they are not only claiming responsibility for this bombing, but they are also threatening more “black days” in Saudi Arabia; particularly for the Shiite sect.

But the reassuring words of King Salman bin Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia, in the wake of this incident, should help us in understanding Saudi opinion, and response.

“We were pained by the enormity of the crime of this terrorist aggression which contradicts Islamic and humanitarian values,” King Salman had said in a message to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, who is also the Interior Minister.

“Any participant, planner, supporter or sympathiser with this heinous crime will be held accountable, tried and will receive the punishment he deserves,” he had added, according to Al Arabiya News channel.

Alongwith these firm words of the King, some practical, decisive, actions from the international community are also needed today, as the world combats large scale terror.

Even now, as the world looks, almost helplessly, ISIS is taking over the ancient city of Palmyra which has rich history and cultural heritage.

With this new increase of land, ISIS will now be in control of almost half of Syria. And, we must realise, therefore, that it will not be an easy battle.

After the Iraqi city of Ramadi fell into the hands of ISIS, last week, a senior U.S. official said that the world has never witnessed any organisation comparable to ISIS.

He suggested that ISIS has thousands of fighters from more than 100 countries; which is more than double what the Soviets faced in Afghanistan in the 1980s.

So, combating ISIS will not be an easy task for the US or UK or even for a huge coalition.

A sustained effort in planning and executing concerted, workable strategies “to stop them” is the biggest need of the hour.

The internationally acclaimed journalist, and a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, Abdulrahman al-Rashed says this: “ISIS represents a greatest danger for us Arabs. There is an army of an estimated 20,000 terrorists crawling forward

and no one has been able to stop them for a year and a half, despite the magnitude of Iraqi resources, U.S. logistics and intelligence and Iranian support”.

They must be stopped.