Publication: Terrorism Focus Volume: 3 Issue: 31
SAUDI ARABIA’S SHIITES STAGE PRO-HEZBOLLAH PROTESTS
As a result of the outbreak of hostilities in southern Lebanon, Saudi Arabia’s Shiite minority has been staging protests in support of Hezbollah. The current conflict between Shiite Hezbollah and Israel has energized Shiites throughout the Middle East, especially in Iran and Iraq. In Saudi Arabia, where public protests are banned, the recent demonstrations by the country’s Shiite minority (approximately 10 percent of the population) have created uneasiness. Saudi Arabia’s Shiites mostly populate the Eastern Province, where the majority of Saudi Arabia’s extensive energy facilities are located (Terrorism Monitor, July 27). The Saudi government is careful to monitor its minority Shiite population, since any instability in that region of the country would have an adverse affect on the kingdom’s ability to maintain its oil exports (Terrorism Monitor, July 27). Against the backdrop of Iraq’s recently empowered Shiite population, Hezbollah’s current struggle with Israel is demonstrating Shiite capabilities and could embolden Saudi Arabia’s Shiites to demand more power from the government. Thus far, however, the protests appear to be innocuous. In one of the demonstrations, for example, protestors were pandering to the recently strengthened Shiite-Sunni unity in the face of the Israeli intervention of Lebanon, shouting, “Not Sunnis, not Shiites…only Islamic unity! Oh beloved Hezbollah, destroy Tel Aviv!” (al-Jazeera, August 3).
SOUTHERN THAILAND ROCKED BY MORE THAN 100 COORDINATED ATTACKS
On the night of August 1, southern Thailand was rocked by more than 100 incidents of terrorism, primarily consisting of bombing and arson attacks (Bangkok Post, August 4). The sheer size of the coordinated operation surprised authorities. For instance, according to an unidentified source quoted in the August 3 edition of the Bangkok Post, each of the August 1 incidents were executed by five militants, implying that between 700 and 1,000 militants or sympathizers participated in the campaign. Despite the size of the operation, there were very few casualties; the attacks consisted of “petrol bottle bombs, burning of tires and rags, nail booby traps and arson of telephone booths, bus stops, telephone signal relay towers, pig farms and local homes” (Bangkok Post, August 3). In response to the attacks, on August 3 the government deployed an additional 30 companies of rangers to reinforce the region (Bangkok Post, August 4). The three southernmost provinces of Thailand—Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat—are already patrolled by 20,000 troops (Bangkok Post, August 4). The August 1 bombings come less than two months after the June 15 bombing campaign in southern Thailand, where, in the course of four days, approximately 74 bombs were detonated, including 50 on the first day (Terrorism Focus, June 27). Thailand has faced an Islamist insurgency in the south for more than two years which has left more than 1,300 people dead.