Saudi Arabia raises security concerns for Hajj DUBAI: The Daesh or the self-styled Islamic State militant group is extending its reach in Saudi Arabia and fears are that its determination to bring down the US-allied royal family has raised concerns it could threaten the annual Muslim Hajj pilgrimage later this month.
So far, the extremist group’s presence in the kingdom appears to be in a low-level stage, but it has claimed four significant bombings since May, one of them in neighboring Kuwait.
And it has rapidly ramped up its rhetoric, aiming to undermine the Al Saud royal family’s legitimacy, which is rooted in part in its claim to implement Islamic Shariah law and to be the protectors of Islam’s most sacred sites in Mecca and Medina that are at the center of hajj
But on Aug. 6, a suicide bomber attacked in western Saudi Arabia, hitting a mosque inside a police compound in Abha, 350 miles south of Mecca, killing 15 people in the deadliest attack on the kingdom’s security forces in years.
Eleven of the dead belonged to an elite counter-terrorism unit whose tasks include protecting the Hajj pilgrimage.
The alleged affiliate that claimed responsibility for the August attack called itself the “Hijaz Province” of the Islamic State, its first claim of a branch in the Hijaz, the traditional name for the eastern stretch of the Arabian Peninsula where the holy cities are located.
The previous attacks were claimed by the group’s “Najd Province,” the traditional name for the central heartland of the peninsula and the homeland of the Al Saud family.