Last Updated: Monday, 19 February 2018, 14:34 GMT

Country Reports on Terrorism 2011 - Saudi Arabia

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 31 July 2012
Cite as United States Department of State, Country Reports on Terrorism 2011 - Saudi Arabia, 31 July 2012, available at: [accessed 20 February 2018]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Overview: The Government of Saudi Arabia continued to build and augment its capacity to counter terrorism and extremist ideologies. Saudi authorities launched a number of public trials of suspected terrorists, supporters, and financiers; arrested numerous other suspected terrorists, including those aligned with al-Qa'ida (AQ); disrupted alleged terrorist plots; and continued to implement improved border security measures. Senior Saudi leaders – including members of the royal family, government officials, and religious figures – made public comments condemning terrorist acts and criticizing extremist ideology.

Saudi security officials indicated that terrorist groups continued to plan attacks inside the Kingdom against targets of Western interest and residential compounds, as well as targets of oil, transport, aviation, and military importance. Al-Qa'ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) was the primary terrorist threat against the Kingdom. Many of AQAP's activities and efforts have been thwarted by aggressive Saudi government counterterrorism programs. Efforts to combat the terrorist threat have been complicated by ongoing instability in Yemen, which has provided AQAP an opportunity to recruit members, solicit funds, and plan attacks on Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia maintained a robust counterterrorism relationship with the United States.

Legislation and Law Enforcement: Saudi Arabia continued its efforts to track, arrest, and prosecute terrorists within the Kingdom. In January, Saudi authorities announced the arrest of 765 people during the previous Hijri year (between December 18, 2009, and December 6, 2010) for involvement in terrorist activities. According to the governmental Human Rights Commission, 4,662 suspected terrorists remained in detention as of December 25. The Ministry of Interior improved border security measures, including installation of biometric scanners at entry points throughout the Kingdom; thermal imaging systems; motion detectors and electronic-sensor fencing along the borders with Iraq, Yemen, and Jordan; and a dedicated 15,000-troop armed border patrol.

Starting in May, special criminal courts conducted trials of a number of suspected terrorists; media and local human rights observers were allowed to observe proceedings in these first-ever public terrorism trials. In October, one of the special criminal courts sentenced a Saudi woman to 15 years in prison for providing shelter to terrorists; dubbed "Lady al-Qa'ida" by the local press, the defendant was the first Saudi woman to be convicted for links to AQ. In November, another special criminal court convicted a group of 16 men of terrorism, sedition, and other crimes, and sentenced the defendants to prison terms ranging from five to 30 years. At the end of the year, trials were ongoing in the case of 11 defendants accused of participating in a 2004 terrorist attack on the Red Sea port of Yanbu, and in the case against 85 defendants belonging to the AQAP-affiliated Dandani cell (named after founder Turki al-Dandani and believed to be responsible for establishing terrorists cells throughout the country). The 85 defendents were accused of planning and executing attacks on residential compounds in Riyadh in 2003.

Countering Terrorist Finance: Saudi Arabia is a member of the Middle East North Africa Financial Action Task Force, a Financial Action Task Force-style regional body. The Saudi Arabian Financial Intelligence Unit, or SAFIU, is a member of the Egmont Group. The Saudi Arabian government provided special training programs for bankers, prosecutors, judges, customs officers, and other officials from government departments and agencies. The Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency, the main coordination point on anti-money laundering and counterterrorist finance, issued standing instructions to all Saudi financial institutions to comply with international standards.

For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, we refer you to the 2011 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume 2, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes:

Regional and International Cooperation: Saudi Arabia is a founding member of the Global Counterterrorism Forum. The Saudi government pledged U.S. $10 million over the next three years to help fund the UN Center for Counter Terrorism. Saudi Arabia is a partner nation in the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism and the Proliferation Security Initiative. It is also a member of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), itself a member of the FATF.

Saudi government officials issued statements encouraging enhanced cooperation among GCC and Arab League states on counterterrorism issues, and the Saudi government hosted international counterterrorism conferences on subjects ranging from countering extremist ideology to counterterrorist financing.

Saudi security professionals regularly participated in joint programs throughout the world, including in Europe and the United States. The Naif Arab University for Security Sciences (based in Riyadh) and the Arab League's Council of Interior Ministers jointly organized a course in Tunisia on countering terrorism, covering topics such as terrorist cells, the contradiction of justifications for terrorism with Islamic law, and the Saudi experience in counterterrorism. Saudi Arabia has security-related bilateral agreements including counterterrorism cooperation with the United States, Italy, the United Kingdom, India, Iran, Turkey, Senegal, Pakistan, Tunisia, Oman, Morocco, Libya, Yemen, Iraq, Jordan, and Sudan.

Countering Radicalization and Violent Extremism: The Saudi government focused on public awareness campaigns and conducted outreach, counter-radicalization, and rehabilitation programs. Some of these efforts involved seminars that refuted radical Islamic interpretation and ideology. Public awareness campaigns were aimed at reinforcing the values of the Islamic faith and educating Saudi citizens about the dangers of extremism and terrorism. Methods used included advertisements and programs on television, in schools and mosques, and at sporting events. The government also issued statements condemning individual terrorists and denouncing terrorist attacks across the world, including attacks in Alexandria, Egypt; and in Marrakech, Morocco; in January and May, respectively.

As part of its outreach program, neighborhood police units engaged and worked directly with community members, encouraging citizens to provide tips and information about potential terrorist activity. The Saudi government offered rewards for information on suspected terrorists, which resulted in multiple arrests of AQAP militants and supporters.

The Ministry of Islamic Affairs continued to re-educate imams, prohibiting them from incitement, and monitored mosques and religious education. We refer you to the Department of State's International Religious Freedom Report ( for further information on Saudi Arabia's educational curricula, including textbooks used in religious training.

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