Defense Ministers of the Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition (IMCTC) held their first high-level meeting in Riyadh under the theme “Allied against Terrorism” on November 26, 2017. As he addressed top defense officials, ambassadors and senior diplomats attending, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman opened the event, declaring that “The biggest danger of this terrorism and extremism is the tarnishing of the reputation of our beloved religion. … We will not allow this to happen.”
Saudi Arabia first announced the alliance back in December 2015, initially with 34 nations committed. Now with 41 member states, the meeting aimed to consolidate bonds of cooperation and integration within the coalition, and represented the continuation of the IMCTC efforts.
Representatives of countries such as Egypt, Bahrain, Afghanistan, Uganda, Somalia, Mauritania, Lebanon, Libya, Yemen, and Turkey discussed ways to enhance the IMCTC as a major bloc to address security challenges and terrorism issues, specifically plans and proposals within the fields of military, intellectual, media and terror financing. The meeting also addressed ways to promote coordination with other international agencies, and saw the appointment of retired General Raheel Sharif of Pakistan as commander-in-chief of the coalition.
Saudi Arabia: A Leader in the Fight Against Terrorism.
The United States has long urged Muslim countries to take a more proactive role countering terrorism and extremist ideology. Saudi Arabia has been leading this charge. Saudi Arabia has articulated a strategy by targeting the men, money and mindset that sustains it.
Saudi Arabia has launched 341 airstrikes against Daesh in Syria, the second-largest number of airstrikes, second only to the United States itself. More than 2,800 suspected terrorists have been arrested in Saudi Arabia since 2015, including the conspirators in the July 4th attacks.
Saudi Arabia has the strongest terror financing and money laundering laws in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia has frozen and investigated more than 115 bank accounts suspected of terror financing. The Kingdom is a founding member of the Counter-ISIL Finance Group. Co-Chaired by Saudi Arabia, United States and Italy, CIFG is dedicated to cutting off sources of funding for Daesh. In October 2017, Saudi Arabia and the United States launched the Terrorist Financing Targeting Center (TFTC), a collaborative approach to confronting new and evolving threats arising from terrorist financing.
Prominent Islamic leaders have condemned terrorism has counter to Islam. In a message to the people of Saudi Arabia and all the world’s Muslims on the occasion of the Eid Al-Fitr, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz recommitted Saudi Arabia to “strike with an iron fist” the terror groups that seek to recruit youths to “extremism and violence,” and pledged efforts to “distance them from masterminds of misleading ideas.”