x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

UAE 'safe' despite threat of revenge over bin Laden

GCC officials warn terrorist activity will continue but say the UAE has not generally been a target for such groups.

ABU DHABI // The killing of Osama bin Laden will spark retribution from al Qa'eda and terrorist activities will continue, leading GCC officials cautioned yesterday.

The Interior Ministry undersecretary, Gen Seif al Shafaar, said more attacks were expected.

"[US President Barack] Obama's speech was clear," he said. "He said terrorism would not stop and he expects a reaction from al Qa'eda and other networks, so terrorism will not stop at one person.

"Terrorism will not end one of these days with the murder of bin Laden. Al Qa'eda was able to spread its networks in many countries around the world."

He described terrorism as a phenomenon that affected many countries and said forces must co-operate to combat it. However, authorities do not expect the UAE to be at risk because it generally has not been a target for such groups, he said.

"There are no terrorist threats [here], but each country takes its precautions to face the things that harm its security," he said. "But there are no signals of threats or growth in terrorism actions."

Saudi Arabia said it hoped the killing of bin Laden, a former citizen of the country, will boost efforts to fight terrorism.

The Saudi Press Agency carried an official statement yesterday expressing hope that his death would be a "step that supports the international efforts against terrorism".

It added that the Saudi people, in particular, were targeted by "this terrorist organisation", referring to al Qa'eda, which once had an active branch in the kingdom.

A son of a prominent Saudi family, bin Laden was stripped of his citizenship after he criticised the royal family's reliance on US troops to protect it after the Iraqi invasion of neighbouring Kuwait.

Meanwhile, Lt Gen Ghazi al Omar, undersecretary of the Interior Ministry of Kuwait, said: "From my security opinion, we have to wait and see. There has to be a reaction from al Qa'eda. If the system is well-organised, it won't stop. Their activities are not limited to one person, even if he were their leader."

GCC countries were safe, he added. "We don't have these types of problems. Matters are moderate, [GCC countries] have been merciful with everyone, they give aid to the whole world. From a humanitarian perspective, everyone appreciates them," he said.

Regarding Iranian spy networks operating in some GCC countries - two Iranian diplomats were caught in Kuwait and were accused of spying recently - he said Iran "exports its powers".

The country has been accused by some of trying to shake the unity and independence of GCC nations, and specifically of interfering in the protests in Bahrain.

Lt Gen al Omar said GCC nations were all taking additional security measures to combat infiltration threats and future attacks, but declined to give specific examples.

Speaking after the preparatory meeting of GCC interior ministries' undersecretaries, before the interior ministers' meeting today, Lt Gen al Shafaar said the focus of member states was on bilateral co-ordination to upgrade security procedures.

"Now the most important challenge is to modernise and develop our security so it will reach the standards of developed countries," he said, adding that the UAE had taken big steps in that regard.

hdajani@thenational.ae

* With agencies