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Middle East

Saudi king warns of terrorist threat to West

File - In June 27, 2014, Saudi King Abdullah speaks before a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry at his private residence in the Red Sea city of in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. (AP Photo/Brendan Smialowski, Pool, File)

RIYADH: The king of Saudi Arabia has warned that extremists could attack Europe and the U.S. if there is not a strong international response to terrorism after ISIS seized a wide territory across Iraq and Syria.

While not mentioning any terrorist groups by name, King Abdullah’s statement appeared aimed at drawing Washington and NATO forces into a wider fight against ISIS and its supporters in the region. Saudi Arabia openly backs rebels fighting Syrian President Bashar Assad, but is concerned that the breakaway Al-Qaeda group could also turn those very same weapons on the kingdom.

“I am certain that after a month they will reach Europe and, after another month, America,” he said at a reception for ambassadors Friday.

Official Saudi media carried the king’s comments early Saturday.

“These terrorists do not know the name of humanity and you have witnessed them severing heads and giving them to children to walk with in the street,” the king said, urging the ambassadors to relay his message directly to their heads of state.

ISIS has been fighting moderate rebels, other jihadists and Assad’s forces in Syria for nearly three years. Iraq has faced an onslaught by the extremists and their supporters since early this year.

While providing arms and support to Sunni militants in Syria, Saudi Arabia has denied directly funding or backing ISIS.

Saudi Arabia has taken an increasingly active role in criticizing ISIS. Earlier this month, the country’s top preacher described ISIS and Al-Qaeda as Islam’s No. 1 enemy and said that Muslims have been their first victims. State-backed Saudi preachers who once openly called on citizens to fight in Syria can now face steep punishment and the kingdom has threatened to imprison its citizens who fight in Syria and Iraq.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on September 01, 2014, on page 8.

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