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Al-Qaeda in royal rumble with 'sinful' Saudi crown prince

Qasim al-Raymi's AQAP has threatened Saudi Arabia's MbS [Getty/CC/TNA composite]

Date of publication: 1 June, 2018

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Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsular has slammed Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for hosting a WWE wrestling match in Jeddah.
Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsular [AQAP] has slammed Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for hosting a WWE wrestling match in Jeddah.

The militant group headed by Qasim al-Raymi attacked the Saudi leader for his "sinful projects", referring to a number of largely cosmetic reforms introduced to shake up the conservative kingdom.

Among the crown prince's decrees - meant to appeal to Saudi Arabia's burgeoning youth population - have been lifting restrictions on cinemas and ending a driving ban on women in the kingdom.

But it appears it was the sight of heavily muscled, oiled, topless male wrestlers at a WWE tournament in Jeddah in April which most riled the jihadis.

"[Foreign] disbelieving wrestlers exposed their privates and on most of them was the sign of the cross, in front of a mixed gathering of young Muslim men and women," said Al Qaeda's Yemen-based franchise.

"The corruptors did not stop at that, for every night musical concerts are being announced, as well as movies and circus shows."

Mohammed bin Salman's reforms have been popular with young people, following decades of tight control over the country due to ultra-conservative pressure on the monarchy.

The crown prince's reforms have prompted public denouncements from the ulama and other ultra-conservatives, probably due in part to fears following bin Salman's crackdown on potential opponents.

The militant group said the young prince desired "the complete liberalisation" of the kingdom - despite his reactionary approach to dissent as he consolidates power.

"The new era of bin Salman replaced mosques with movie theatres," the jihadi group said in its Madad news bulletin, according to AFP.

"[He] substituted books that belonged to the imams... with absurdities of the atheists and secularists from the east and the west and opened the door wide for corruption and moral degradation."

AQAP has taken advantage of the turmoil in Yemen, due to the war between Saudi-backed government forces and Iranian-allied Houthi groups.

The US views AQAP as al-Qaeda's most dangerous affiliate, and has launched numerous drone strikes aimed at taking out the group's commanders. Several such strikes and raids, however, have caused catastrophic civilian fatalities.

The war has led to 10,000 dead, many from Saudi-led coalition airstrikes, while hunger and disease is reaching epic proportions.

Saudi Arabia has been placed on a United Nations blacklist over the killing and maiming of children.

Mohammed bin Salman is Saudi Arabia's de-facto ruler and led Riyadh into the war in Yemen, which has seen few positive results either for the Saudis, or for Yemeni President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi's forces.

Houthi forces still control the capital, Sanaa, along with one of Yemen's main ports, Hodeida.


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Agencies contributed to this story.

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