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Saudi Arabia vows new Islamic alliance 'will wipe terrorists from the earth'

China Daily | Updated: 2017-11-28 07:50

RIYADH - Saudi Arabia's crown prince on Sunday opened the first high-level meeting of a kingdom-led alliance of Muslim nations against terrorism, vowing to "pursue terrorists until they are wiped from the face of the earth".

"In past years, terrorism has been functioning in all of our countries... with no coordination" among national authorities, said Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is also Saudi defense minister, in his keynote address to the gathering in Riyadh.

"This ends today, with this alliance."

The meeting is the first of defense ministers and other senior officials from the Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition, which officially counts 41 countries and identifies as a "Pan-Islamic unified front" against extremism.

The alliance was announced in 2015 under the auspices of Prince Mohammed, whose rapid ascent since his appointment as heir to the throne in June has shaken the political scene across the region.

Sunday's meeting came as several military coalitions, including key Saudi ally the United States, battle to push the Islamic State group from its last remaining bastions in Iraq and Syria.

The alliance groups largely, although not exclusively, Sunni-majority or Sunniruled countries.

It excludes Shiite-dominated Iran as well as Syria and Iraq.

Sunday's meeting coincided with an escalation in tensions between Riyadh and Teheran, particularly over wars in Syria and Yemen and the political structure of multi-confessional Lebanon.

"The pillar of this coalition is inclusion," said Saudi General Abdulelah al-Saleh, the alliance's acting secretary general, playing down the exclusion of the three countries.

"Our common enemy is terrorism, not any religion, sect or race."

'Distorted image'

The alliance meeting in Riyadh brings together Muslim or Muslim-majority nations including Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Afghanistan, Uganda, Somalia, Mauritania, Lebanon, Libya, Yemen and Turkey.

Retired Pakistani general Raheel Sharif, who has been appointed commander-inchief, also insisted that the coalition was not against any religion or state.

The alliance aims to "mobilize and coordinate the use of resources, facilitate the exchange of information and help member countries build their own counterterrorism capacity", Sharif said.

While the alliance officially includes Qatar, which is the target of a six-month boycott led by Saudi Arabia, organizers in Riyadh said no Qatari officials were present at the meeting.

Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain abruptly cut diplomatic and trade ties with Qatar in June, accusing the emirate of being too close to Iran and supporting extremism.

Doha denies the allegations.

Egypt, which sent a military official and not its defense minister to Sunday's meeting, is reeling from a Friday attack on a mosque that killed more than 300 people during prayer time.

While IS has not claimed responsibility, Egyptian authorities say the organization is the main suspect as the mosque is associated with followers of the mystical Sufi branch of Sunni Islam, whom IS has branded heretics.

AFP - AP

 

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