Today in Terrorism: 8 November 2003, Bombings in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

On this day in 2003, a Saudi Arabia compound was hit by multiple bombs attributed to Al Qaeda.

It is getting really hard to be supportive of Saudi Arabia. Then again, it always was. The state that essentially controls the price of oil thanks to its vast reserves and hence its ability to tweak production was never really an ‘ally’ of the West. It is a society dominated by a hateful interpretation of Islam known as Wahabbism, has a gazillion royal family members sucking at the public teat, treats its expatriate workers abysmally, has no real rights for women, and so on.

For those convinced the country is ‘modernising’, the once heralded appearance of Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman (MBS) has lost its lustre. Not only has he had women pressing for more freedoms arrested and clamped down on dissent, but he most likely ordered the kidnapping, killing and dismemberment of Saudi dissident Jamal Kashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2, 2018, earning MBS a new nickname: Mister Bone Saw.

There are also valid questions regarding just whose side the Kingdom is on when it comes to terrorism. 15 of the 19 hijackers on 9/11 came from Saudi Arabia and the ideology underscoring much of Al Qaeda (AQ) and Islamic State (ISIS) bears a huge resemblance to the Islam practiced there. Saudi officials have a lot to answer for indeed.

Riyadh compound bombing

Nevertheless, on this day in 2003 there was a terrorist attack on a residential compound in Riyadh in which 17 people were killed and 22 wounded. The attack came six months after a similar incident in which 39 were killed and more than 160 wounded.

The bombing came one day after the US closed its embassy and two consulates because of intelligence indicating that terrorists plotting attacks were moving into an operational phase. All believed that AQ was behind the attack, which may have been motivated by the March 2003 decision to invade Iraq.

Despite incidents of this nature it is still relevant to ask: so whose side is Saudi on? The question remains unanswered.