Saudi Arabia, Jan 23, 2017: At least 69 Pakistani are being held in Saudi Arabia for their alleged involvement in terror-related offences, local media reported on Monday.
The most recent arrest came on Saturday when Saudi security forces rounded up Fatima Ramadan Balochi Murad along with her Saudi husband from an apartment in al Naseem district after a tip-off, Saudi Gazette reported.
Murad was detained in a security operation launched after a firefight and subsequent blowing up of two suspected terrorists in Jeddah on Saturday. This is not the first time Pakistani citizens have been suspected of perpetuating terror in the oil-rich kingdom.
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In July last year, a Pakistani suspect Abdullah Qalzar Khan blew himself up near Solaiman Fakeih Hospital in Jeddah, which led to the arrest of as many as 49 Pakistani residents who were put under interrogation.
Meanwhile, a terror attempt, which involved two Pakistanis — Solaiman Arab Deen and Farman Naqshaband Khan — was also foiled last October in Jeddah. The suspects had planned to carry out blasts in al Jowhara Stadium.
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Through its communications portal, the Saudi interior ministry revealed that 5,085 terror suspects from 40 countries were undergoing detention in five intelligence prisons in the kingdom.
“There are 4,254 Saudis detained in intelligence prisons constituting the largest number of suspects,” it said. The Saudis are followed by 282 Yemenis and 218 Syrians. There are three suspects from the US and one each from France, Belgium and Canada.
Congress is heading for a showdown with President Donald Trump after the House voted Wednesday to block his administration from selling billions of dollars in weapons and maintenance support to Saudi Arabia.
Trump, who has sought to forge closer ties with Riyadh, has pledged to veto the resolutions of disapproval that passed the Democratic-led House largely along party lines. Two of the resolutions passed with 238 votes, while a third was approved with 237. Each of the measures garnered just four Republican backers.
The Senate cleared the resolutions last month, but like the House, fell well short of a veto-proof majority. Overturning a president’s veto requires a two-thirds majority in both the House and Senate.
Heightened Middle East tensions
Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, accused the Trump administration of circumventing Congress and the law to move ahead with the arms sale. He called the resolutions “extraordinary but necessary” to stop “a phony emergency to override the authority of Congress.”
The votes came against the backdrop of heightened tensions in the Middle East, with much of the focus on Iran. Tehran is pushing the limits on its nuclear program after Trump unilaterally withdrew the United States from the 2015 nuclear deal more than a year ago. Iran has inched its uranium production and enrichment over the limits of the accord, trying to put more pressure on Europe to offer it better terms and allow it to sell its crude oil abroad.
The White House has declared stopping the sale would send a signal that the United States doesn’t stand by its partners and allies, particularly at a time when threats against them are increasing.
But opposition among members of Congress to the Trump administration’s alliance with the Saudis has been building, fueled by the high civilian casualties in the Saudi-led war in Yemen — a military campaign the U.S. is assisting — and the killing of U.S.-based columnist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi agents.
The arms package, worth an estimated $8 billion, includes thousands of precision-guided munitions, other bombs and ammunition, and aircraft maintenance support for Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had cited Iranian aggression when declaring an emergency to approve the weapons sales in May. The Saudis have recently faced a number of attacks from Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen.
“Right now, as I speak, Iran is stretching its tentacles of terror across the Middle East,” said the Foreign Affairs Committee’s top Republican, Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas, who pushed for the resolutions to be rejected. “If we allow them to succeed, terrorism will flourish, instability will reign and the security of our allies like Israel will be threatened.”
Critics of the sale also had denounced the White House for bypassing congressional review of the arms sales, which was done by invoking an emergency loophole in the Arms Export Control Act.
Pompeo had informed Congress that he had made the determination “that an emergency exists which requires the immediate sale” of the weapons “in order to deter further the malign influence of the government of Iran throughout the Middle East region.”
The law requires Congress to be notified of potential arms sales, giving the body the opportunity to block the sale. But the law also allows the president to waive that review process by declaring an emergency that requires the sale be made “in the national security interests of the United States.”