The 40 members of the Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition met in Riyadh to launch the alliance that aims to defeat terror both in its “ideology and in its violence".
Saudi Crown Prince to 'chase terrorism until it disappears'
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Sunday vowed to "chase terrorism until it disappears" at the launch of a military coalition of 41 countries aimed at fighting extremism.
Addressing defence ministers from the Muslim-majority nations, including the UAE, Prince Mohammed condemned the attack on an Egyptian mosque at the weekend which killed more than 300 people.
He said the Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition aimed to fight terrorism both in its “ideology and in its violence".
“Today, we will chase it until terrorism has disappeared from the face of the earth,” Prince Salman, who is also the Saudi defence minister, told the meeting in Riyadh. “We haven’t had good co-ordination between each other, today that lack of communication ends because of this coalition.”
Prince Mohammed said terrorism and extremism were not only the region’s biggest dangers because of the “killing of innocent people and rampant dissemination of hatred”, but because of the way they had “sullied the reputation of our religion and our ideology”.
“That’s why we won’t allow it to go further than today,” he said.
The coalition's new website said its main purpose “is to increase co-operation between Islamic countries on the combatting the financing of terrorism and to counter radical Islamic ideology”.
The countries involved, which span from West Africa to East Asia, will create a military coalition that will require co-operation of troops across the countries and joint financing. Several observers have referred to the coalition is an "Islamic Nato".
The website also provides information on what the coalition’s military commander, General Raheel Sharif, said are the “four key domains of ideology, communications, counter-terrorism financing and military, in order to fight all forms of terrorism and extremism”.
The countries involved in the coalition are among the worst effected by terror attacks and extremist insurgencies globally. Seven of the ten countries suffering from the most terrorist deaths each year are members of the coalition.
General Sharif, a retired former chief of army staff in Pakistan appointed to lead the coalition earlier this year, said there should be a global reaction against terrorism that is willing to eradicate it from the region.
He said that 70 per cent of terrorist attacks have happened in the Islamic world, making the coalition an important source of countering the attacks within their own countries.
According to the Institute for Economics and Peace, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Syria, Pakistan and Iraq accounted for three quarters of all deaths from terrorism in 2016. Both Syria and Iraq, the two countries who experienced the heaviest ISIL insurgency, are not part of the coalition.
According to the Global Terrorism Index, deaths from terrorism decreased by 13 per cent globally with most countries reporting a reduction in terrorist-related fatalities. Iraq, however, witnessed a 40 per cent increase in deaths in 2016 following the battle between the Iraqi Armed Forces and ISIL.
Qatar, which signed up to the coalition in December 2015, did not attend the meeting. The country has since been boycotted by Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries overs its links to extremist groups.
Mohammed Al Bawardi, UAE Minister of State for Defence Affairs, said the ideological battle against terrorism will be further enforced through cooperation.
“Our countries are able to fight together, worthy that we command the drive in all earnest so that we can guarantee a future for generations to come,” Mr Al Bawardi said.
“We must fight it ideologically, such that we can spread the concept of tolerance, peace and the acceptance of others, and a religious outlook that welcomes all, and one that fights terrorism and extremism.”
Egypt and Turkey, both members of the coalition, saw the largest increase in terrorism with Cairo reporting a nine-fold increase in terrorist attacks in the country.
The conference comes just days after what was believed to be the deadliest attack in Egypt, when a bomb exploded in a mosque in north Sinai killing 305 people.
"The attack in Sinai will not deter us, it will drive us forward as we look to fight terrorism, and I thank all who have supported us during this time," Major General Tawhid Tawfiq, head of the Egyptian delegation to the coalition said.
The meeting looks to conclude with proposals and a mechanism in place to help all the countries involved improve their counter-terrorism capacity.