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Yemeni national who stabbed performers at a Saudi festival acted 'under Al-Qaeda orders' Open in fullscreen

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Yemeni national who stabbed performers at a Saudi festival acted 'under Al-Qaeda orders'

The festival was part of government efforts to open up Saudi society [Getty]

Date of publication: 19 December, 2019

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A 33-year-old Yemeni national, who stabbed two men and a woman during a theatre performance at a Riyadh festival, confessed his ties to Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
The perpetrator of a knife attack on performers at a festival in Riyadh last month was an Al-Qaeda fighter from Yemen, according to a court statement on Thursday.

A hearing in Riyadh's criminal court revealed the unnamed attacker, arrested after stabbing two Spanish theatre performers and a security guard, had acted on the orders of a senior Al-Qaeda leader in Yemen.

Washington considers Al-Qaeda in the Arabic Peninsula (AQAP) one of the most dangerous branches of the terrorist organisation.

Usman Khan, the slain perpetrator of the recent London  Bridge attack, was radicalisd by propraganda spread by the group and its charistmatic leader, Anwar al-Awlaki, also based in Yemen. Khan was in 2010 overhead discussing the pipe bomb recipe in the group's "Inspire" magazine.

Five years later the two men responsible for the Charlie Hebdo massacre, which killed 12 people and left another 11 wounded, both had ties to the group. 

Capitalising on the chaos caused by the rebel Houthi capture of the Yemeni capital, AQAP used the north and centre of the country to stage a major resurgence in 2015.

AQAP today maintain a strong foothold in Yemen. The Saudi led US military coalition frequently target the group, who continue to carry out operations in the war-torn state.

The 11 November attack in Riyadh took place at King Abdullah park in the capital and is the first of its kind in the Kingdom.

Riyadh is currently host to a two-month long entertainment festival, part of Mohammed bin Salman's aim to liberalise Saudi society and diversify its oil-dependent economy.

State television at the time reported that the victims, two men and a woman, sustained only superficial wounds and described their condition as "stable" after receiving medical care.  

Read more: Performers stabbed on stage in Saudi capital were Spanish

Footage which circulated on social media show a man charging towards the performing group, as a security guard tries to apprehend him.

Several cast members collapsed on stage during the attack. There were also reports of injuries among the crowd amidst the ensuing chaos.  

Saudi Arabia is experiencing an era of openness unprecedented in recent times. Countless artists and performance troupes have been invited to festivals, much to the ire of conservative elements in the Kingdom.

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