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Saudi Arabia Announces 34-State Military Coalition To Fight Terrorism

Saudi Defense Minister Mohammed bin Salman (second from right) said, "We will fight every terrorist organization, not only the Islamic State." (file photo)

Saudi Arabia on December 15 announced the formation of a 34-member Islamic military alliance to combat terrorism.

"The countries here mentioned have decided on the formation of a military alliance led by Saudi Arabia to fight terrorism, with a joint operations center based in Riyadh to coordinate and support military operations," a joint statement published by the state news agency SPA said.

The listed alliance members include Arab countries such Egypt, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates, together with Islamic countries Turkey, Malaysia, and Pakistan. Other Gulf Arab and African states were also mentioned in the list.

"The appropriate arrangements shall be developed for coordination with friendly peace-loving nations and international bodies for the sake of supporting international efforts to combat terrorism and to save international peace and security," the statement said.

The announcement cited "a duty to protect the Islamic nation from the evils of all terrorist groups and organizations whatever their sect and name which wreak death and corruption on Earth and aim to terrorize the innocent."

Sunni Saudi Arabia’s regional rival, Shi'ite Muslim Iran, was not listed as a member of the new alliance. The two countries have been locked in proxy conflicts from Syria to Yemen.

The United States has called on Gulf Arab states to step up their efforts to fight Islamic State (IS) militants that control areas of Iraq and Syria.

U.S. President Barack Obama on December 14 said he has tasked Defense Secretary Ash Carter with traveling to the Middle East to secure greater military contributions from other countries in the U.S.-led coalition that is fighting IS forces.

Saudi Defense Minister Mohammed bin Salman told reporters in a rare press conference on December 15 that the newly announced campaign would "coordinate" counterterrorism efforts in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Egypt, and Afghanistan, though he provided few concrete details.

"We will fight every terrorist organization, not only the Islamic State," bin Salman said at the press conference, which was broadcast by Saudi television.

He added that each member country will participate in the alliance according to its capabilities.

"There will be international coordination with major powers and international terms of operations in Syria and Iraq. We can't undertake these operations without coordinating with legitimacy in this place and the international community," bin Salman said.

IS militants have vowed to overthrow the Gulf Arab monarchies and have attacked Shi'ite Muslim mosques and security personnel in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.

With reporting by Reuters and dpa
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