Mecca, Asharq Al-Awsat – Saudi ambassador to Bangladesh, Dr. Abdullah Al Bussairy, stressed that it is too early to issue any statements regarding the murder of Saudi diplomat Khalaf al-Ali. Al-Ali, head of Saudi citizens’ affairs at the embassy in Dhaka, was shot and killed in the Bangladeshi capital of Dhaka in March earlier this year whilst taking a late-night walk near his home in the city’s Gulshan district. He was rushed to a local hospital where he died three hours later.
Speaking exclusively to Asharq Al-Awsat, Dr. Al Bussairy stressed that the Saudi Foreign Ministry is in direct contact with the Bangladeshi authorities regarding the latest developments in this case. He also asserted that the Saudi embassy in Dhaka quickly followed up on this incident, confirming that it is too early to know all the details of this attack, as well as the motives of the attackers. Dr. Al Bussairy said that the investigation into this case must follow its normal course, and that the Saudi embassy is closely following this up, and will officially announce the results of this at the suitable time.
For his part, Saudi Foreign Minister, Prince Saud al-Faisal, announced that the Bangladeshi authorities have informed the Saudi embassy in Dhaka of the arrest of four individuals responsible for the murder.
Local deputy police commissioner Nazrul Islam revealed that the Bangladeshi authorities had arrested four men, aged between 22 and 25, for the murder. The police also recovered the pistol allegedly used to shoot the Saudi diplomat, as well as a car used by the assailants.
Islam told Agence France-Presse [AFP] that “we have learned from the detainees that they were out to mug someone that night and encountered Ali. At one stage in the scuffle, a bullet fired from a mugger’s pistol hit Khalaf al-Ali in the chest.”
Saudi Foreign Ministry spokesman Ambassador Osama Al-Naqli also told Asharq Al-Awsat that personal protection details are usually provided to diplomats by the host country, according to political and diplomatic traditions and international agreements.
Al-Naqli revealed that Saudi Arabia has security officers stationed in its embassies, according to the diplomatic laws regarding the protection of diplomatic missions, adding this is something that is taking place in coordination with local security apparatus. The Saudi Foreign Ministry spokesman also told Asharq Al-Awsat that the competent authorities at the Saudi Foreign Ministry are sending periodic security instructions to all diplomatic staff across the world regarding the security steps that diplomats should be following.
The assassination of Saudi diplomatic Khalaf al-Ali in Dhaka raised a number of questions regarding the extent of the protection that diplomatic missions are receiving abroad, particularly as there have been more than 24 direct and indirect attacks on Saudi diplomatic missions abroad in recent years, including shootings and explosions.
One of the most prominent Saudi diplomat to be targeted was Saudi ambassador to the US Adel al-Jubeir, after an assassination plot targeting him was uncovered in October last year by the FBI. US officials revealed that they had thwarted a major Iranian-backed assassination-for-hire plot targeting the Saudi ambassador to Washington. US Attorney General Eric Holder claimed that elements of the Iranian government directed the plot. Saudi Arabia has been subjected to numerous Iranian-linked plots.
In 1989, Saudi Embassy employees were killed or seriously injured during a series of attacks at the kingdom’s missions in Turkey, Belgium and Lebanon. Pro-Iranian groups active in Beirut at the time claimed responsibility for the assassinations.
In Bangkok, meanwhile, three Saudi diplomats and another embassy employee were murdered in 1989 and 1990. Thai authorities later accused a pro-Iranian group known as Jund al-Haqq — Arabic for “soldiers of justice” — of carrying out those attacks. The group had previously claimed responsibility for one of the slayings in 1989.
In 2008, the wife and daughter of a Saudi diplomat were killed in Chad, after a grenade was thrown into their home in the capital N’Djamena, during a coup targeting Chad president Idriss Deby.
Dr. Khalid al-Hassani, a researcher into organized behaviour, told Asharq Al-Awsat that attacks on Saudi diplomats abroad has escalated over the past three years, saying this is due to Riyadh’s just positions on all international issues. He stressed that Saudi Arabia has proven, thanks to these fair and unbiased positions, that it is the heart of the Arab and Islamic world, and that it does not hesitate to serve Arabs and Muslims across the world with regards to all strategic and vital issues. The Saudi researcher said these positions represent a source of concern for some states that are hostile to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
For his part, Khalid Mohamed al-Ali, the elder brother of the Saudi diplomat killed in Dhaka, informed Asharq Al-Awsat that he is certain that the Saudi authorities are following up the investigations into his brother’s killing. He added that he is glad that the perpetrators have been arrested and that he hopes they are punished appropriately for killing a true Saudi statesman who dedicated his life to serving his homeland.
Whilst son of Khalaf al-Ali, Nasser Khalaf al-Ali, aged 23, stressed that his father sacrificed everything for his country, living far from his family in the service of Saudi Arabia. He also said that he is well aware that the Saudi leadership is committed to its citizens, and will do everything in its power to ensure that those responsible for killing his father face justice.