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Saudi clerics warn against sectarian conflict as anti-terror efforts continue - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Saudi Interior Minister Mohammed Bin Naif (2nd L) visits the Al-Mustafa Husseiniya in the Al-Ahsa governorate, Saudi Arabia, on November 5, 2014. (Asharq Al-Awsat)

Saudi Interior Minister Mohammed Bin Naif (2nd L) visits the Al-Mustafa Husseiniya in the Al-Ahsa governorate, Saudi Arabia, on November 5, 2014. (Asharq Al-Awsat)

Al-Ahsa and Al-Qassim, Asharq Al-Awsat—Fifty prominent religious and political figures in Saudi Arabia’s Al-Ahsa province issued a joint statement on Wednesday condemning the terror attack which killed seven people earlier this week, warning that its perpetrators aimed to incite sectarian conflict in the Kingdom.

“Those who carried out this attack do not represent a specific [Islamic] sect or school of thought, rather these are adherents of a malicious satanic ideology,” said the statement which was signed by both Sunni and Shi’ite clerics.

Saudi Arabia’s Interior Ministry has attributed the Al-Ahsa attack to adherents of “deviant” ideology, an implicit reference to Al-Qaeda.

“This crime aims to tear apart our national unity . . . and, therefore, we must deny them [the perpetrators] the opportunity to take advantage of this by investing in our unity and national cohesion,” the statement added.

The Al-Ahsa attack saw three masked gunmen targeting worshipers at a Shi’ite Husseiniya (meeting house) on Monday, resulting in the deaths of seven Saudi citizens.

Riyadh launched a massive counterterror offensive following the attack, carrying out simultaneous raids in six Saudi cities to arrest a total of 15 terror suspects less than 24 hours after the incident.

Saudi security forces also raided a “safe house” in Al-Buraidah in the Al-Qassim region, arresting eight following a shootout that resulted in the death of one suspected militant. This brings the total number of suspected militants arrested following the attack to 23, with three suspected militants killed in shootouts with Saudi security forces.

Two Saudi police officers were also killed in the operation.

A prominent Saudi security source, speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief the press, said that the Al-Buraidah safe house had been rented by two brothers—who have now been arrested—as a base for the terrorist cell responsible for the Al-Ahsa attack. The body of one of the suspected gunmen is believed to have been uncovered by Saudi security forces at the property, while the suspected mastermind behind the Al-Ahsa attack is also believed to be among those arrested, the source said.

Prominent Shi’ite clerics in Saudi Arabia’s Qatif governorate also came out this week to condemn the Al-Ahsa attack, but sought to play down its sectarian ramifications and affirm Saudi Arabia’s national unity.

“Those who carried out this terrorist attack wanted to explode the national social fabric and incite sectarian fitna,” prominent Saudi Shi’ite religious figure Hassan Al-Saffar 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 best response to this crime would be to strengthen national cohesion,” he added.

Additional reporting by Mirza Al-Khuwaylidi, Obeid Al-Suhaimi and Ali Al-Qatan in Al-Ahsa, and Nasser Al-Haqbani in Riyadh.

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

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