Saudi Arabia Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Sunday opened the first high-level meeting of a Saudi-led coalition of Muslim nations against terrorism in Riyadh, vowing that extremists will no longer “tarnish our beautiful religion.”
Prince Mohammed’s words come as the Islamic State group, which sparked the creation of the alliance, has been driven out of Iraq and lost its self-described capital in Syria.
However, the alliance doesn’t include Iran, Iraq or Syria, while member nation Qatar sent no one to attend the one-day Riyadh gathering amid a diplomatic standoff between Doha and four Arab nations led by the kingdom.
“The biggest danger of this terrorism and extremism is the tarnishing of our beloved religion’s reputation […] We will not allow this to happen,” said the royal who has been the driving force behind this coalition. “Today, we start the pursuit of terrorism and we see its defeat in many facets around, the world especially in Muslim countries. We will continue to fight it until we see its defeat.”
The crown prince also offered his condolences to Egypt, which suffered an attack on Friday by Islamic militants on a mosque in northern Sinai that killed 305 people.
“This is indeed a painful event and it is a recurrent and strong reminder the dangers of this terrorism,” he said.
The inaugural meeting of the Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition (IMCTC) Ministers of Defence Council is being held under the theme of ‘Allied Against Terrorism’.
“A number of our member countries are under tremendous pressure while fighting well established terrorist organisations due to capacity shortages of their armed forces and law enforcement agencies,” said Pakistan’s former army chief and the coalition’s military commander, Gen Raheel Sharif, at the event.
“The IMCTC will act as a platform to assist member countries in their counter terrorism operations through intelligence sharing and capacity building.”
The alliance described as a “41-nation pan-Islamic coalition” was announced in December 2015.
Pakistan was part of the initial list of 34 countries that had agreed to become part of the coalition.
Gen Raheel Sharif joined the alliance as its top commander in April this year. According to IMCTC, the former chief “presents the Military Domain, which aims to assist in the coordination, of resourcing and planning of military CT operations, facilitate the secure sharing of information, and encourage military CT capacity and capability building.”
Core areas that the IMCTC seeks to address have been identified as ideology, communications, counter terrorist financing and military.