Coalition warships secure Yemen ports: Saudi Defense Ministry

Saudi Defense Ministry spokesman Brig. Gen. Ahmed Asiri briefs reporters at the Riyadh Air Base, Saudi Arabia, on March 30, 2015. (SPA)
Saudi Defense Ministry spokesman Brig. Gen. Ahmed Asiri briefs reporters at the Riyadh Air Base, Saudi Arabia, on March 30, 2015. (SPA)

Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat—Warships from the Saudi-led Arab coalition targeting the Houthi movement in Yemen have successfully secured all the country’s ports, Saudi Arabia’s Defense Ministry said on Monday.

In his daily briefing to reporters, Defense Ministry spokesman Brig. Gen. Ahmed Asiri said coalition warships had implemented a sea blockade of all Yemen’s ports, cutting off all entry and exit points.

He added that the ongoing air campaign had also destroyed a cache of ballistic missiles and mortar bombs and destroyed a group of tanks the Houthis were moving toward the southern port city of Aden.

In addition to military supplies and equipment, coalition airstrikes are also targeting the movement of Houthi militias and leading figures within the movement, Asiri said, also adding that the air campaign would be intensified within the coming days.

In answer to a question regarding reports that coalition warplanes had accidentally targeted a refugee camp just outside Sana’a, Asiri said that coalition warplanes had come under anti-aircraft missile attacks from the area and were thereby forced to respond, adding that Houthi militias have been deploying their forces in a number of civilian areas.

“Coalition forces are working extremely hard to avoid these kinds of incidents and are working to accurately specify targets and make sure they are empty of civilians before launching any attacks,” he said.

The Saudi-led offensive, dubbed Operation Decisive Storm, is now in its sixth day, and involves aircraft and ships from a number of regional countries including Gulf Cooperation Council members Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait and the UAE, as well as regional allies Egypt, Sudan, Morocco and Jordan.

Observers expect the air offensive could soon be beefed up with ground troops in order to fully quell the Houthi coup. Asiri did not rule out a ground operation.

He said: “When we need to introduce ground troops, we will deploy them accordingly and announce this openly—we have nothing to hide.”

In addition to Saudi Arabia’s Arab allies, Pakistan has also offered to join the coalition against the Houthis. Asiri confirmed Islamabad would be sending troops to the Kingdom to coordinate with their Saudi counterparts.

Yemen’s Hadi calls for no-fly zone, GCC military intervention

Yemen's President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi attends a meeting with local officials in the southern port city of Aden, Yemen, on March 4, 2015. (Reuters/Stringer)
Yemen’s President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi attends a meeting with local officials in the southern port city of Aden, Yemen, on March 4, 2015. (Reuters/Stringer)
Riyadh and Sana’a, Asharq Al-Awsat—Yemen’s internationally-recognized government on Sunday called on the UN and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) to impose a no-fly zone over parts of the country after the third largest city of Taiz fell to Houthi rebels.

Tensions in Yemen escalated on Sunday after Iran-backed Houthis controlled Taiz province, the gateway to the southern portal city of Aden where President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi has established a rival government after fleeing Sana’a.

The fall of Taiz boosts the influence of the Shi’ite group who are already in control of the capital Sana’a and several other strategic areas in central and west Yemen.

In comments to Asharq Al-Awsat, Yemen’s newly-appointed Foreign Minister Riyadh Yassin said: “We have addressed both the GCC and the UN for the need of [imposing] a no-fly zone and banning the use of warplanes at the airports controlled by the Houthis.”

Yassin called for military intervention by the GCC to contain Houthis’ growing influence in Yemen, warning that the country “is heading towards a civil war.”

He said: “We call on the [GCC’s] Peninsula Shield force to intervene to stop the Iran-backed advance of the Houthis.”

Unidentified warplanes hit Hadi’s presidential palace in Aden and the surrounding area last week. Hadi was reported uninjured.

Hadi’s administration has accused military figures loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh and Houthis of staging a failed coup attempt, branding them in a statement “Iran’s agents.”

The FM claimed the takeover of the Taiz International Airport was carried out by warplanes loaded with Houthis militants and flown by pilots from Iran’s elite Al-Quds Force.

The fall of airport in Taiz, Yassin maintained, would facilitate the Houthi takeover of other airports following the same tactic.

“If Houthis continue to carry out reconnaissance sorties over the presidential palace in Aden without any resistance, Aden will be shelled,” he said.

Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity, local sources said military and security officials “represent the backbone of the fall of Taiz.”

There are indications, the official warned, that Houthis would use Taiz as a staging ground for future attacks on the southern provinces of Lahj and Aden.

On Sunday army forces loyal to Hadi, backed by popular committees, deployed 40 tanks on the outskirts of Aden.

Military reinforcements were reported leaving the Daylami airbase near Sana’a to Taiz over the past three days.

“Most of the personnel in the reinforcement are not soldiers but Houthi militants in army outfit,” the source added.

Arafat Madabish contributed reporting.

Saudi diplomat says was treated “inhumanely” by Al-Qaeda captors

Saudi Deputy Consul to Aden Abdullah Al-Khalidi (C-L) is awarded the Order of Abdulaziz Al Saud by Saudi Arabia's King Salman Bin Abdulaziz (C-R) at the Yamama Palace in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on March 3, 2015. (Saudi Press Agency)
Saudi Deputy Consul to Aden Abdullah Al-Khalidi (C-L) is awarded the Order of Abdulaziz Al Saud by Saudi Arabia’s King Salman Bin Abdulaziz (C-R) at the Yamama Palace in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on March 3, 2015. (Saudi Press Agency)

Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat—The Saudi diplomat recently freed from captivity in Yemen revealed on Tuesday he was treated badly by his Al-Qaeda captors.

Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat Saudi Deputy Consul Abdullah Al-Khalidi said he was “guiltlessly” kidnapped by Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) in front of his residence in the Mansourah neighborhood of the southern city of Aden.

“I was treated inhumanely by my AQAP captors,” he said.

Khalidi, who was seized by AQAP in March 2012, returned to the Kingdom on Monday following “intensive efforts made by the presidency of the General Intelligence service,” the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA) said.

The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, Saudi King Salman Bin Abdulaziz, received the freed diplomat on Tuesday at the Yamama Palace in Riyadh where he awarded him the Order of Abdulaziz Al Saud of the third class.

Over the past few years, Saudi security services, working in close coordination with Yemeni authorities, have managed to secure the release of Saudis and foreigners kidnapped by AQAP as well as locate several of the terrorist group’s leaders.

Saudi Arabia secured the release of two German girls in 2010 after they were taken captive by AQAP. In the same year, Saudi authorities foiled a plot to detonate two explosive packages on board cargo planes bound from Yemen to the US.

Enhanced British military presence in region will benefit Gulf: British defense minister

Saudi Deputy Crown Prince, Second Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior Prince Muhammad Bin Naif (R) speaks with Britain’s Defence Secretary Michael Fallon at the Royal Palace in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on March 3, 2015. (Saudi Press Agency)
Saudi Deputy Crown Prince, Second Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior Prince Muhammad Bin Naif (R) speaks with Britain’s Defence Secretary Michael Fallon at the Royal Palace in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on March 3, 2015. (Saudi Press Agency)

Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat—Plans to strengthen Britain’s military presence in Bahrain will benefit the entire Gulf region, British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon said on Tuesday during a visit to the Saudi capital Riyadh.

Fallon, who was in Riyadh as part of a region-wide visit, said plans to expand facilities at the Bahrain Defence Force (BDF) Mina Salman Port will help Britain and its Gulf allies deal more swiftly with regional security threats.

The base is used to support British naval ships in the Gulf but is limited by its size and lack of facilities. The expansion will now enable it to accommodate Royal Navy personnel and provide support for the long-term deployment of more, and larger, British naval ships in the Gulf.

Fallon added that work on the base could be completed by the end of this year, though initial announcements have said the expansion is likely to be finished during 2016.

The plans strengthen British military presence in the region at a time when the UK is stepping up its involvement in the international coalition fighting the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in the region.

Fallon said in January that Britain would begin training members of moderate Syrian opposition groups who are fighting ISIS in Syria, and reiterated the importance of its aerial support for Iraqi troops fighting the group in Iraq.

Fallon said the UK’s strategy in the fight against the group focused on defeating it militarily, but added that efforts must also be increased to fight the group on the political, ideological, cultural and intellectual fronts.

As part of his current tour of the Middle East, Fallon has already met with several officials and heads of state including Jordan’s King Abdullah II and Kuwaiti Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber Al-Mubarak Al-Sabah.

On Tuesday he met with Saudi Crown Prince and First Deputy Prime Minister Prince Muqrin Bin Abdulaziz; Deputy Crown Prince, Interior Minister and Second Deputy Prime Minister Prince Muhammad Bin Naif; and his counterpart Prince Mohammed Bin Salman Bin Abdulaziz, who in addition to being the Kingdom’s defense minister also serves as an adviser to Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman Bin Abdulaziz and heads the Saudi Royal Court.

Iran coordinating with Al-Qaeda since 2007 to target US interests in Kingdom, Dubai: sources

This file photo shows Saudi and foreign citizens gathering around the devastated Al-Hamra expatriate housing compound that was hit by a suicide car bombing on May 12, 2003, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (AP Photo)
This file photo shows Saudi and foreign citizens gathering around the devastated Al-Hamra expatriate housing compound that was hit by a suicide car bombing on May 12, 2003, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (AP Photo)

Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat—Iran has been coordinating with Al-Qaeda and its affiliates since 2007 with the aim of carrying out terror attacks against US targets in Dubai and Saudi Arabia, informed sources have told Asharq Al-Awsat.

Speaking under condition of anonymity, the sources said coordination between Iran and the global terrorist organization was mainly taking place through Saudi citizen Saleh Al-Qarawi, a senior member of the organization who is on the Kingdom’s most-wanted lists and is the founder of Al-Qaeda affiliate the Abdullah Al-Azzam Brigades.

The sources contend Qarawi is the main Al-Qaeda figure coordinating operations from inside Iran, where they say he has been moving freely for a number of years and from where he has been recruiting other Saudi citizens for the organization and coordinating their movement into Iran from the Kingdom.

Along with Abdul Mohsen Al-Sharikh, another senior Saudi member of the organization—and also on the Kingdom’s most-wanted lists—the sources accuse Qarawi of planning a terror attack in Saudi Arabia aiming to abduct US citizens residing in the country.

The plan eventually failed but the sources say Qarawi and Iran have been coordinating on several other operations, including a planned attack in 2007 against a US army base in Jordan which was foiled by the Jordanian authorities.

Qarawi and Iran have also coordinated on another failed operation, the sources said, which planned to attack the US embassy in Dubai using either a drone aircraft loaded with missiles and bombs or by having a pilot fly a small aircraft used for flight instruction into the embassy building.

The sources said Qarawi was behind other failed operations including one to bomb a Japanese oil tanker crossing the Strait of Hormuz in 2010 and planned attacks on London’s Heathrow Airport.

Al-Qaeda and its affiliates have claimed responsibility for several terror attacks on the Kingdom in recent years including a 2003 suicide bomb attack targeting residential compounds—mainly housing foreigners—in the capital Riyadh which killed 17 people and injured over 100.

Gulf states call on UN to end Yemen crisis

Yemenis drive past the exterior of Saudi Arabia's embassy complex in Sana'a after it closed following security concerns, on February 14, 2015. (AFP Photo/Mohammed Huwais)
Yemenis drive past the exterior of Saudi Arabia's embassy complex in Sana'a after it closed following security concerns, on February 14, 2015. (AFP Photo/Mohammed Huwais)

Riyadh and Sana’a, Asharq Al-Awsat—The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) has called on the UN to take immediate action to end the crisis currently gripping Yemen, at the same time that two Gulf states joined the growing list of countries pulling their diplomats out of the country.

In a statement released on Saturday following an extraordinary meeting of GCC foreign ministers in Riyadh, the organization called on the UN Security Council “to make a decision under Chapter Seven of the United Nations Charter” to resolve the political impasse in the country, where the Shi’ite Houthi movement now holds sway since its power grab earlier this month.

Chapter Seven of the UN Charter allows for the use of military force in the event of “any threat to the peace, breach of the peace, or act of aggression.”

The GCC views the Houthis’ recent moves as a coup undertaken via force of arms.

The Houthi movement, also known as Ansar Allah, has sought to expand its presence and influence Yemen since September, when it took control of the country’s capital Sana’a following a month-long series of mass protests and sit-ins by its members and supporters.

Earlier this month, Houthi fighters placed Yemen’s outgoing president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi under virtual house arrest, prompting him and his government to resign.

After fruitless negotiations with other parties over how to fill the power vacuum, the Houthis announced that they had formed a Revolutionary Committee to administer the country, and prepare a new parliament and interim presidential council.

The GCC also warned on Saturday that if the crisis in Yemen continued, its members may take “necessary measures” to protect their interests in the country.

In his opening speech at the GCC meeting, Qatari Foreign Minister Khalid Bin Mohammed Al-Attiyah said the situation in the country was at its most dangerous since the uprising in 2011 which ousted former president Ali Abdullah Saleh.

He called for the immediate release of Hadi and other government figures held by the Houthis.

Meanwhile, the EU said on Saturday it was “deeply saddened” that president Hadi, prime minister [Khaled] Bahah and other government ministers” remained in detention and called for an “immediate end to these house arrests,” and for the Houthi movement to return Yemen to the political road map outlined by the UN, the EU and Gulf states in 2011.

Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat on Saturday, Faris Al-Saqqaf, a former adviser to Hadi, said the Houthis were now “completely isolated” both within Yemen and internationally, and called on the movement to “reassess its position.”

Meanwhile, Gulf states Saudi Arabia and the UAE both shut down their embassies and pulled their ambassadors out of Yemen on Saturday, citing the security situation in the country. They join a growing list of other countries, including the US, UK, Italy and Germany, who have halted all diplomatic work in Yemen in recent weeks.

Arafat Madabish contributed reporting from Sana’a.

Suicide bomber in Saudi border attack recruited family members to join ISIS: source

A member of the Saudi border guards force stands guard next to a fence on Saudi Arabia's northern border with Iraq, in this July 14, 2014 file photo.    REUTERS/Faisal Nasser/Files
A member of the Saudi border guards force stands guard next to a fence on Saudi Arabia’s northern border with Iraq, in this July 14, 2014 file photo. REUTERS/Faisal Nasser/Files
Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat—One of the four men who carried out a fatal suicide bomb attack on Saudi border guards last Monday recruited some of his family members to join the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), informed sources have told Asharq Al-Awsat.

The sources said Salim Mohammed Al-Shammari, a Saudi national, went to Syria via Turkey during 2013 to fight with ISIS, taking with him some members of his family whom he had persuaded to join the extremist group.

Other members of the family also went to Syria during 2013 in separate groups, the source—who requested anonymity because he is not authorized to brief the media—said.

The source said the four attackers had initially been fighting in Syria but went to Iraq during shortly before the attack.

The four men carried out the attack last Monday on a border patrol near the city of Arar on the Saudi frontier with Iraq’s Anbar province.

During the attack, Shammari’s associates exchanged gunfire with border guards, and Shammari detonated an explosives belt after reinforcements arrived, killing three border guards including commanding officer Gen. Oudah Al-Belawi.

In comments to Asharq Al-Awsat on Saturday, Interior Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Mansour Al-Turki said three of the four were Saudi nationals who left the Kingdom separately in 2013. One of them was previously arrested for having ties to Al-Qaeda but was released on bail.

Security forces seized automatic weapons, hand grenades and explosive belts, including more than 100,000 Saudi Riyals, at the scene of the attack.

Saudi Arabia is one of the countries in the US-led international coalition against ISIS, which has carried out airstrikes on the group in Iraq. The group has repeatedly warned it would be carrying out attacks in the Kingdom in reprisal.

Arar border attack carried out by Saudi ISIS members: sources

File photo shows image of Mamdouh Al-Mutairi (L) and Abdullah Al-Shammari who carried out the attack on Arar border crossing. (Asharq Al-Awsat)
File photo shows image of Mamdouh Al-Mutairi (L) and Abdullah Al-Shammari who carried out the attack on Arar border crossing.
(Asharq Al-Awsat)

Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat—A deadly attack on Saudi border guards along the Saudi-Iraqi frontier this week was carried out by Saudi members of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) seeking to cross back into the Kingdom undetected, security sources told Asharq Al-Awsat.

This comes as the Saudi Interior Ministry confirmed that at least three of the four attackers were Saudi nationals. The identities of the three Saudi attackers have been revealed as Mamdouh Al-Mutairi, Abdulrahman Al-Shamrani and Abdullah Al-Shammari. The identity of a fourth attacker, who detonated an explosive belt after being captured, remains unknown.

The attack resulted in the deaths of three Saudi border guards, including commanding officer Gen. Oudah Al-Belawi, and all four attackers. The four men were seeking to infiltrate Saudi territory from Iraq on Monday and were confronted by Saudi border guards close to Arar, capital of the Northern Borders Province.

In comments to Asharq Al-Awsat, Interior Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Mansour Al-Turki said that the three Saudi nationals left the Kingdom separately in 2013 and that Mutairi was previously arrested for having ties to Al-Qaeda but was released on bail.

Turki also revealed that Abdullah Al-Shammari was the brother of Mutlaq Al-Shammari, a terrorist killed in an exchange of fire with security forces in Mecca in 2006.

Security forces seized automatic weapons, hand grenades and explosive belts, including Iraqi and Syrian bank notes, at the scene of the attack.

The Saudi Interior Ministry on Friday announced that three Saudi nationals and four Syrian nationals had been arrested in Arar in connection with the attack.

“Security investigations with the seven suspects will uncover whether they had any intention to carry out terrorist operations, as well as any other people who might have connections to the attackers,” Turki said.

“At this time, we cannot rule out if they were going to aid and assist the attackers to infiltrate Arar,” he added.

Security sources, speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity, said that the seven suspects were arrested following information obtained from cell phones that the attackers had been carrying.

The sources also claimed that both Mutairi and Shammari were on the Saudi no-fly list but had managed to sneak out of the country illegally, making their way to Syria where they joined ISIS.

Investigations into the deadly attack, and any ties that the attackers have inside and outside the Kingdom, are ongoing, Turki said.

The official Saudi Press Agency, quoting an Interior Ministry spokesman, confirmed that the attackers were members of the “deviant” group. Official statements have traditionally described Al-Qaeda in such terms, although Riyadh has since expanded the expression to include ISIS.

Saudi Interior Ministry announces arrest of 135 terror suspects

A member of the Saudi border guards force stands guard next to a fence on Saudi Arabia's northern borderline with Iraq, in this July 14, 2014 file photo. (Reuters/Faisal Nasser/Files)
A member of the Saudi border guards force stands guard next to a fence on Saudi Arabia’s northern borderline with Iraq, in this July 14, 2014 file photo. (Reuters/Faisal Nasser/Files)
Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat—Authorities in Saudi Arabia have arrested 135 terror suspects, including 26 foreign nationals, on charges of plotting to carry out terrorist attacks inside the Kingdom, according to the Ministry of Interior.

During a press conference on Sunday, the ministry’s spokesman Mansour Al-Turki said the arrests were part of a nationwide campaign which had detained a number of terrorist suspects with links to foreign militias seeking to recruit Saudi nationals.

Some of the suspects had been smuggling residents of the Qatif province out of the Kingdom for terrorist training before bringing them home to carry out attacks, Turki added.

“Deluded Saudis are being intellectually exploited and prepared to implement the goals of terrorist groups,” Turki said.

Turki said the militias have links with and operate under the influence of foreign entities, though declined to give further details.

Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity, a senior security official said the suspects have links with militias based in Iraq that were seeking to undermine security and stability and create chaos in the Kingdom.

Turki confirmed that the suspects in custody included 16 Syrians, thee Yemenis, an Egyptian, a Lebanese, an Afghan, an Ethiopian, a Bahraini, and an Iraqi.

Forty of the suspects were arrested in different areas for “going to zones of conflict, joining extremist groups and training in the handling of weapons . . . before returning to the kingdom to destabilise the country,” he said.

According to Turki, 54 of the suspects have been arrested on charges of providing support to terrorist groups, including “funding, recruiting, issuing fatwas, spreading [propaganda] . . . and manufacturing explosives.”

Seventeen of the detainees were involved in the recent riots that took place in the Shi’ite-majority Al-Awamiyah town near Al-Qatif province.

The ministry called on all citizens and residents to remain vigilant and cautious of plots to destabilize security, and urged them to report any suspicious activities to the authorities.

ISIS ordered Ahsa attack: Saudi Interior Ministry

Saudi Arabia's Interior Ministry spokesman Mansour Al-Turki gestures during a news conference in Riyadh, on March 24, 2013. (Reuters)
Saudi Arabia's Interior Ministry spokesman Mansour Al-Turki gestures during a news conference in Riyadh, on March 24, 2013. (Reuters)

Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat—Saudi Arabia’s Interior Ministry has announced that the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) ordered the attack on a Shi’ite shrine in the small town of Dalwah in the country’s Al-Ahsa governorate earlier this month, which resulted in the deaths of seven Saudi citizens.

Three masked gunmen attacked worshipers at a Shi’ite Husseiniya (meeting house) in the east of the country earlier this month. Riyadh launched a nationwide counterterrorist operation following the attack to track down those responsible, arresting a total of 77 people in successive raids across the country.

The Saudi Interior Ministry announced on Monday that the attack on Dalwah was directly ordered by ISIS, and that the terrorist cell’s leader—as well as three other members of the group—have direct links to the terrorist group that is spreading throughout Iraq and Syria.

Saudi Interior Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Mansour Al-Turki said that the unnamed head of the terrorist cell had received specific orders from abroad including the target and timing of the attack.

“ISIS is working to destroy everything that it can to incite fitna and chaos in society and destroy the stability of the Kingdom by targeting innocent citizens, as well as religious figures, government officials and government and security infrastructure,” he said.

“Fitna,” an Arabic term meaning “sedition” or “civil strife,” is often associated with particular religious connotations or conflicts between different religious groups or sects. The attack on Al-Ahsa targeted Saudi Shi’ites, with many observers warning this could set off sectarian violence between Saudi citizens. However, the attack was roundly condemned by Saudi Sunni and Shi’ite religious leaders, who have called for steadfastness and unity in the face of such attacks.

Turki hailed Saudi Arabia’s response to the Ahsa attack, confirming that the security apparatus had been able to quickly identify and track down those responsible within a matter of hours. “We have been able to arrest everyone affiliated with this terrorist group, whether those who pledged allegiance to the leader of the group, or participants, supporters, financiers, or those who provide cover,” he said.

The Interior Ministry spokesman said that the four main perpetrators of the shooting, including the terrorist cell leader, were believed to be among those arrested in successive raids following the attack. As for the other 74 suspects arrested, they are believed to have provided material assistance to the attackers. He confirmed that all those arrested were Saudi nationals, with the exception of one Turkish national, one Syrian national and one Jordanian national. Three terrorist suspects were killed in the nationwide security raids that took place following the attack, including two Saudi nationals and one Qatari. Two Saudi security officers were also killed.

Saudi security forces carried out simultaneous raids in 13 cities across the Kingdom within days of the attack, capturing or killing those involved in the Al-Ahsa terrorist attack.

The Interior Ministry spokesman also revealed that 32 of those arrested have previous terrorism-related convictions, including three of the main perpetrators of the attack who had ties to the “deviant” group, Saudi state terminology for Al-Qaeda.