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Asia Today ISSN 1861-4604 Sunday, February 18, 2018

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On the last Friday of Ramadan, Saudi Security Forces foil terror attack at Islam's holiest site - the Grand Mosque in Mecca

The Saudi Interior Ministry said in a statement

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MECCA, Saudi Arabia - Thwarting a plan that would spell disaster - Saudi Security Forces revealed on Saturday that they had foiled an attack being planned near the Grand Mosque area in Mecca.> BNN
The security spokesperson of the Saudi Interior Ministry, Mansour al-Turki said that security forces had foiled a terror plot on Friday targeting the Grand Mosque in Mecca, where hundreds of thousands of worshippers were gathered for early afternoon prayers on the last Friday of this year's Muslim fasting month, Ramadan.
The Saudi Interior Ministry said in a statement on State Television that five members belonging to a cell, including a woman, were arrested as part of the operation and are being investigated.
It said, the interior ministry “confirms that this terrorist network, whose terrorist plan was thwarted, violated, in what they would have perpetrated, all sanctities by targeting the security of the Grand Mosque, the holiest place on Earth.”
The statement further added, “They obeyed their evil and corrupt self-serving schemes managed from abroad whose aim is to destabilise the security and stability of this blessed country.”
Security forces said the attack targeted worshippers at the mosque and that the operation was planned by three terrorist groups, two based in Mecca and the third in Jeddah. 
Officials revealed that the first operation was foiled in Mecca's al-Aseelah neighbourhood, where a wanted man was shot dead at an Islamist militant hideout, while the second was thwarted in Ajyad al-Masafi neighbourhood.
The ministry also said a third cell had been broken up in the Red Sea city of Jeddah but did not provide any further details.
Meanwhile, a would-be suicide bomber, who was hiding in a house in the Ajyad al-Masafi neighbourhood, reportedly opened fire on security forces and refused to comply with calls to turn himself in. 
Authorities later confirmed that he had blown himself up after being surrounded in the house in the central Mecca neighbourhood, close to the mosque, revealing that the house was being used as the base for the attack.
As he blew himself up, the building collapsed, its walls crushed a parked car as what appeared to be shrapnel and bullet holes peppered nearby structures - injuring six foreigners and five members of the security forces.
Saudi state television broadcast footage from near the Grand Mosque at the end of the raid on Friday.
The footage showed police and rescue personnel running through the neighbourhood’s narrow streets. 
Reports pointed out that the operation was a big victory for security forces as during the last 10 days of Ramadan, Saudi monarchs usually spend their time in Mecca as the month of fasting ends with the Eid-al-Fitr holiday. 
While there have been no claims or revelations on which group plotted the now-thwarted attack on the mosque - the Islamic State group has previously carried out attacks in the Kingdom.
Last year in May, Saudi security forces shot dead two alleged Islamic State fighters outside Mecca, while two others blew themselves up outside Mecca.
The foiled attack also comes in the same week as Saudi Arabia’s King Salman short-circuited the kingdom’s succession by making his son, defence minister Mohammed bin Salman, first in line to the throne. 
Each year, as part of their pilgrimage to Mecca, millions of Muslims from around the world visit the mosque, which is the burial site of the Prophet Muhammad.
Commenting on the foiled attack, the U.A.E.’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Abdullah bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan hailed the Saudi security apparatus in foiling the attack and said the attempted attack would only increase “our will” to encounter those who support terrorism.
He said in a statement, “This horrible crime shows how far terrorism has reached in scope and brutality. No sane person can give any justification or explanation for this.”
Reactions poured in from other parts of the region too.
Jordan’s Minister of State for Media Affairs and Communications Mohammed Momani condemned the failed attack and expressed Jordan's support to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in its fight against terrorism.
Meanwhile, Iraqi Parliament Speaker Salim al-Jabouri said that “liberating minds from extremist ideology” is far more important than just freeing territories seized by ISIS.
He said, “We need a unified stance” to further support “moderate Islam” to tackle this ideology.
Further, Egypt’s Awqaf (Religious Endowments) Minister ‎Mohamed Mokhtar Gomaa condemned the attack and said his country “stands with the brotherly Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in their efforts against terrorism.”
In a statement, Bahrain “expressed its sincere appreciation of the great role of Saudi Arabia under the wise leadership of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud in providing all the comforts and tranquillity for worshippers, visitors and pilgrims.”

The statement added that Bahrain “lauded the outstanding efforts of the security men in thwarting the cowardly terror plot and affirmed that it stands fully with Saudi Arabia in its leadership role to consolidate and enhance security and peace in the region and across the world.”Meanwhile, the Muslim World League Secretary General Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdul Karim Al-Issa condemned the attempted attack and said that terrorism presented a horrific face to those who are deluded in attributing their hostile acts to Islam - while Secretary General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation also heavily condemned the attack plot and lauded the Saudi security forces.Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas condemned the terrorist plot and expressed the Palestinian people's full solidarity with Saudi Arabia in the face of terrorism and extremism.The Kuwaiti foreign ministry too expressed strong condemnation of the “despicable terrorist plot.”

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