Germany and Saudi Arabia: Alliance in Counter-Terrorism


Report: Salman Al Ansari. 2016. Germany and Saudi Arabia: Alliance in Counter-Terrorism. Edited by Dr. Majid Rafizadeh. Harvard Publications, Pp. 23. Also Saudi American Public Relation Affairs Committee (SAPRAC), Washington DC. Also available at Academia.Harvard.Edu. Publisher's Version Copy at
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The following report highlights and illustrates the most significant operations in which Saudi Intelligence has collaborated with international security agencies to thwart a number of terrorist operations, according to several credible sources. Additionally, the report reveals some of the most important commentary made by world leaders in reaction to the Kingdom's tireless efforts in the fight against terrorism. 

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    On April 19th, 2015, the German weekly news magazine Der Spiegel published[1] confidential documents that detail a complete restructuring of the terrorist organization “Daesh”, containing the name of the organization’s founder as well as its the real leader as well as his strategy. [2] 

This leader, according to documents referred to in the newspaper, is a former officer in Saddam Hussein's Baath Air force Intelligence named Samir Abd Mohammed Al-Khalafawi. The report illustrated that Al-Khalafawi worked for Syrian intelligence services after the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq. Eventually he was hired by Bashar al-Assad’s Intelligence force. Reportedly, his purpose was to destabilize the security and stability of Iraq. This appears to have more likely made American troops hesitant to move militarily into Syria. [3]

Iran and Syria are among the three countries, which the US State Department has designated as state sponsors of terrorism.[4] [5] Since that time, several intelligence reports indicate [6]that Iran and Syria have supported Daesh and they have been implementing an elaborate strategy to sow sectarianism, discord and confusion in the heart of the Middle East[7], particularly in Saudi Arabia. [8] Periodically they incited rumors[9] and allegations[10] regarding Riyadh's support for terrorism.[11] These issues ignored the fact that the Kingdom is one of the countries that has endured intense consequences as a result of rampant terrorism.[12] For example, the Kingdom has been targeted by terrorists since 1990. The violence escalated in 1991 with the US-led launch of the coalition forces in the Gulf War.[13]

Acts of terror against Saudi Arabia[14] have escalated to the current day, including an attempted assassination of Saudi Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, at the hands of one of Al-Qaeda’s operatives, Abdullah Asiri, in September 2009. [15][16]With no evidence or substantiation, Saudi Arabia has been wrongly implicated in multiple violent terrorist attacks throughout European countries, such as France and Germany.[17] [18]Daesh’s lone wolves have also tried to undermine trust in Saudi Arabia as a vitally important global ally in the fight against terrorism. From the prism of Saudi Arabia, Riyadh has demonstrated its dedication to peace in multiple ways,  such as the war waged by Riyadh to reestablish legitimacy in Yemen after being violated by Iranian-backed Houthi militias, [19] [20] and also its efforts to help the Syrian people who have been forced to become refugees in both the region and various countries of the European Union.[21]

The most prominent of these attempts is brought to light by the website of the German newspaper “Der Spiegel”.[22] On August 5th, 2016 it revealed, citing sources in the German intelligence that have confirmed - according to the newspaper - the terrorist operative that carried out an attack aboard a train headed towards the German city Urtsburg on July 18th 2016, was a 17-year-old Afghan refugee. The attack led to the injury of four people with serious wounds. He was in contact with branches of Daesh based in his home country, as well as members of the terrorist organization based in Saudi Arabia and spread throughout other countries via online messaging

platforms.[23] The following report reveals the most high-profile terrorist operations carried out against Saudi Arabia during a time in which both the Syrian and Iranian regimes enjoy the privilege of not only being shielded by the Daesh card, but also the distinction of not having any terrorist attack committed against them by the organization. [24]

It reveals the relationship between Syrian intelligence and the establishment of the terrorist organization[25] [26], as well as the most significant operations in which Saudi Intelligence has collaborated with international security agencies[27] to thwart a number of terrorist operations. [28]Additionally, the report reveals some of the most important commentary made by world leaders in reaction to the Kingdom's tireless efforts in the fight against terrorism.[29] [30]

The Relationship Between Syrian intelligence and Daesh

    Confidential documents obtained by the German journalist Christoph Reuter and published by the site “Der Spiegel”[31] on April 19th, 2015, revealed that the first founder of the terrorist organization Daesh is Samir Abd Mohammed Al-Khalafawi, a former officer in Saddam Hussein's Baath Air intelligence. Records showed that Al-Khalafawi also worked for the Baath Syrian intelligence after the defeat of Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq at the hands of the US Army. After the murder of Al-Khalafawi in Tell-Rifaat north of Aleppo, Syria in January 2014, the documents that outlined the founding of "Daesh" were discovered at his residence. This was recorded in private documents by the Syrian Ministry of Defense.[32] The true nature of the murder revealed that it was in fact the result of a split in Tell-Rifaat that drew a rift between loyalists for Daesh and others belonging to opposing factions. The opposition arrived at his home, and an exchange of fire occurred that got Al-Khalafawi killed. At first, the rebels did not recognize the identity of the man they just killed, nor his significance and stature. They

realized who their victim was only after reading his documents, which stated that he is the one nicknamed “Al-Haji Bakar”.[33] [34]

After the opposition’s victory in the battle of Tell-Rifaat, it captured Al-Khalafawi’s home in which they found the original documents that were used in establishing Daesh. The German journalist was able to get his hands on 31 pages of these documents that are full of writings, diagrams and tables that explain how Daesh was built and how it is able to operate between its institutions.[35]

The Relationship Between Syrian intelligence and Daesh 

 These documents included:[36] A list of influential families. Names of the most powerful individuals within those families. Knowledge of their sources of income. Knowledge of the names and sizes of the rebel brigades in any given village. Knowledge of the names of their leaders, and who controls the

brigades and their political orientations. Knowledge of their illegal activities (according to Islamic Sharia law), which can be used to blackmail them if necessary. Documents revealed that the Syrian Ministry of Defense sent fake religious clerics to cities and villages of Syria to open fraudulent religious offices, which were used to teach Sharia law and religion. Over time, these offices were used to draw in young people who were eventually manipulated into submitting to the bidding of the clerics. When the regime began to emphasize repression against the revolution, the heads of Daesh's offices around the country started to deliberately promote religious Sunni intolerance and raise the banner of so-called "jihad".[37]

The Syrians were taken by surprise as the organization's numbers skyrocketed overnight. Daesh went on to operate freely in various areas, which would explain why Al-Assad’s forces were never subjected to any of Daesh’s terrorist operations while a multitude of airstrikes were launched against the opposition’s sites in the midst of their battle against the terrorist organization. [38]

 A report by “Der Spiegel” pointed out that many of the foreign fighters who have flocked to Syria to fight against Al-Assad were surprised that Daesh was only fighting the free army and the moderate opposition. Many of these fighters were eliminated when they tried to escape or revolt against the organization after discovering the truth. [39]

 The report also revealed that Daesh’s main goal was the occupation of Iraqi territory after the consolidation of the organization in Syria to give them the credibility of being a global terrorist organization on one hand, and to control some of the oil reserves that Al-Assad needed to finance his military on the other. Of course, none of these reserves were to be shared with the Iraqi Kurds. The documents also included a plan to target wealthy Syrian

families in order to be infiltrated by Daesh youths, who donned the appearance of politeness and civility. Teams of spies would then pursue the head of the family and its members in order to uncover the most private details about every person's life, including obtaining intimate pictures of them to threaten them with extortion and blackmail. [40] [41]

 This is how - according to the German report[42] - the organization grew in power and expanded the scope of its influence, in addition to swiflty collecting large sums of money. The German news publication said that Al-Khalafawi, as well as other leaders in the organization, decided to declare Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi Khalifa as the Caliph because he has the required charisma, which would draw the unsuspecting public into his influence. He also gave the members of the organization the impression that he is committed to a religious ideal.[43] [44]

 Since the death of Al-Khalafawi, some of his teams, especially the ones deployed in Iraq and Al-Raqaa, began to rebel against the Assad regime. In

fact, after gaining control of Mosul the organization sensed that it did not need Al-Assad and his regime. One of the teams engaged in the brutal bloodshed of Battalion No. 17 of Al-Assad's army, despite the fact that the regime protected the terrorist organization from an earlier siege by the free army in an air base near Al-Raqaa.[45]

 The German journalist Reuter said through questions addressed to him by the newspaper “Asharq Al-Awsat” in April 2015, that the genesis of the organization Daesh in Syria and Iraq initiated after repeated visits by Al-Khalafawi to Syria. These visits reached a total of about 18 and were made during various circumstances since the start of the Syrian revolution.[46]

 The Most High-Profile Terrorist Operations That Targeted Saudi Arabia

 - On June 25th, 1996, 19 Americans and Saudis were killed, and 372 people were injured in an operation targeting an air base in Dhahran (in December 2006, the U.S. Judge Royce Ambers, accused Iran of being involved in the bombings and issued a ruling to that effect, making it the first time an American official indicted Iran for involvement in the bombings). [47]

- Three explosions occurred in the city of Khobar on December 15th, 2000, and at the Euromarche shopping center in Riyadh on January 10, 2001, and at the Jarir Bookstore in Riyadh on March 15th, 2001. [48]

- On March 18th, 2003, a bomb exploded in a house in eastern Riyadh planted by a terrorist named Fahd Assa'edi. - On May 12th, 2003, three car bombs targeted three residential compounds in Riyadh. These attacks killed 20 and injured 194 including many Europeans and Americans.[49]

- In the same month, two terrorists threw hand grenades at a security patrol on the road between the cities of Laynah and Hail, killing two soldiers and injuring two others. - On June 3rd, 2003, an American died after being wounded by gunshots from terrorists while working at the King Abdulaziz base in Jubail Industrial City. [50]

- On November 8th, 2003, terrorists blew up the “Al-Mahya” residential compound in Riyadh, leaving 12 people dead and 122 injured. [51]

- On April 21st, 2004, suicide bombers targeted the General Traffic Department building in Riyadh, resulting in the deaths of four security men and one civilian, as well as the injury of 148 people. [52]

The Most High-Profile Terrorist Operations That Targeted Saudi Arabia   

- On May 1st, 2004, gunmen stormed one of the industrial sites in the city of Yanbu, killing five people (an Australian, two Americans and two Britons). In addition, a Saudi security man was killed and 14 of his colleagues were injured.[53]

 - On May 29th, 2004, an armed group stormed the Oasis residential compound in Khobar. The group took 45 hostages, and killed dozens of people. Saudi security forces were able to storm the building within 48 hours, ensuring the rescue of the hostages. [54]

 - On June 6th, 2004, in the Al-Suwaidi district of Riyadh, Irish cameraman Simon Cumbers was killed in an ambush by terrorists, while his British colleague Frank Gardner, BBC reporter for security affairs was wounded.

 - On December 6th, 2004, a failed attempt to storm the building of the U.S. consulate in Jeddah resulted in the death of three militants and the arrest of two others, as well as numerous other fatalities and a number of deaths from non-America-On December 29th, 2004, two simultaneous operations occurred, the first targeting the headquarters of the Ministry of Interior in Riyadh with a suicide car bomber. This attack injured a security guard at the eastern gate. The second attack targeted the headquarters of the center for training special emergency forces in Riyadh. This second operation was also executed with a suicide car bomber who tried to detonate a bomb near the center. The attempt was thwarted by security forces before the car was able to get near the center of the headquarters.[56] [57]

 - On June 18th, 2003, Colonel Mubarak Al-Suwat of the General Intelligence apparatus in Mecca was assassinated at the hands of two terrorists, who fired nearly 20 bullets at him.

- On February 24th, 2006, security authorities foiled a botched attack that targeted the Abqaiq oil refineries in eastern Saudi Arabia. Two suicide car bombers tried to detonate by charging their vehicles at the refineries, before security guards were able to kill them. Two security men lost their lives defending the refineries.[58]

 - On May 12th, 2006, the U.S. consulate in Jeddah came under fire from a lone gunman. Security authorities were able to injure and arrest him. - In 2009, Prince Mohammed bin Nayef (then Assistant Interior Minister for Security Affairs and now Minister of Interior) was the subject of a failed assassination attempt. The attempt was carried out by Abdullah Tale’a Al-Asiri, who was number 85 on the most wanted list. He used  a cellphone bomb in the failed assassination attempt before being killed himself. -In 2009, one of the border crossings in the region of Jizan saw a confrontation with two Al-Qaida terrorists that tried to sneak into Saudi territory disguised as women before being apprehended by security authorities.[59]

 - On November 5th, 2012, terrorists killed two border guards in an ambush on a security patrol south of the Kingdom on the border with Yemen.

 - On July 5th, 2014, six terrorists tried to infiltrate Saudi territory through the Alwade’a port on the border with Yemen after killing a Saudi security patrol commander. The terrorists were barricaded inside the headquarters of the General Intelligence border, after which they detonated themselves, killing three other security men.

 - On November 24th, 2012, a research paper revealed at a conference called “The Impact of Terrorism on Social Development” organized by the Naif Arab University for Security Sciences in Riyadh showed that the number of terrorist attacks that have taken place in Saudi Arabia reached 98 in the span of 37 years. These attacks resulted in 1,028 injuries and 220 deaths.[60] 

Global Terrorist Operations Foiled by The Kingdom

 - After defeating the Al-Qaeda organization in the Kingdom, they resurfaced in Yemen in 2009. Saudi Minister of Interior Prince Mohammed bin Nayef founded a mechanism to monitor the organization abroad.[61]

 - The Kingdom’s Minister of Interior revealed a plot by Al-Qaeda to plant bombs aboard UPS and FedEx aircraft that were flying from Yemen to Chicago, on the eve of U.S. congressional elections in 2010. [62]

 - The Minister also called the White House and provided John Brennan, President Obama's adviser on terrorism, with the tracking numbers for the packages that contained the bombs. These aircraft were stopped later in Dubai and East Midlands in the United Kingdom. The bombs were removed.[63]

 - On August 2015, the cooperation between Saudi and U.S. intelligence led to the arrest of the “Ahmed Al-Mughsil”, who was accused of masterminding the bombing of the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia in 1996, in which 19 American soldiers were killed.[64]

 Saudi Efforts in the Face of the Organization "Daesh"

 - The emergence of Daesh in Iraq and Syria presented a challenge to the world.

 - The terrorist organization has prepared a campaign to present itself as the heir to Al-Qaida in Iraq after it disappeared from public sight during the influx of U.S. troops in Iraq in 2007.[65]

 - Daesh targeted Iraqi prisons in the years 2012 and 2013, where it imprisoned Al-Qaida terrorists. The terrorist organization created a regulatory infrastructure in neighboring Syria which helped it establish a strong presence in Syrian territory.

 - In the summer of 2014, the organization launched surprise attacks on Iraqi areas inhabited by Sunni Muslims. - Daesh also seized control over Mosul, Iraq's second largest city, and announced the establishment of a Caliphate that controls all Muslims.[66]

 - In November 2014, Daesh announced its quest to take control of Mecca and Medina. - Photographs were published by Daesh depicting doctored imagery of the Kaaba with the organization’s black banner fluttering above it. - Agents of the terrorist organization attacked Saudi security posts along the Iraqi border.[67]

 - Daesh sent its suicide bombers to attack Shiite mosques in the Kingdom to incite sectarian hostility in Saudi society.[68]

 - In response to these threats, Saudi security forces hunted down members of Daesh, inflicting significant blows to the organization by arresting some of its powerful operatives. [69]

 - The Kingdom constructed a 600-mile-long security fence along the Saudi-Iraqi border, similar to the wall of a thousand miles along the Saudi-Yemini border to repel Yemeni-based Al-Qaeda attacks.[70]

Additional References and Sources 




About The Author

Salman Al-Ansari is the founder and president of the Washington DC-based Saudi American Public Relation Affairs Committee (SAPRAC).

A Saudi writer and political commentator, he is specialized in strategic and political communication and is a frequent guest on world-renowned TV channels such as Al-Arabiya, and other international media platforms, such as CNN , BBC & SkyNews.

He has been published numerous times in The Hill and has been quoted numerous times in the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, the Financial Times, and the New York Times. He has moderated multiple panels including "Philanthropy in Saudi Arabia" with Bill Gates and "Globalization and Technology" with Thomas Friedman.
He has 8 years experience in the multiple fields such as Governance, Risk and Compliance, which allowed him to be an expert on Combating Terrorism Financing (CTF) and Anti-money laundry (AML)
Besides his native Arabic language, he is fluent in both English and Spanish, with a U.S. degree in Communication from Saint Louis University. He is active on social media and has been regarded as one of the most influential media personalities in Saudi Arabia by the Saudi observatory organization "ELMAM".





Last updated on 10/30/2016