Riyadh: The Saudi capital is set to host the inaugural meeting of a 41-member pan-Islamic military coalition to counter terrorism on Sunday.
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Defence ministers, diplomats and officials of 41 Muslim countries, including a delegation from the UAE which is part of the Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition or IMCTC are gathering in Riyadh for the day-long conference.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman is expected to open the conference at a hotel here, according to a schedule provided by the organisers on Saturday.
The conference is taking place just two days after hundreds of Friday worshippers were attacked by gunmen in Egypt’s restive North Senai Province.
The country’s deadliest attack in two years claimed 305 lives, including 27 children and 128 others were injured. In his reactions, Saudi King Salman Bin Abdulaziz offered condolences and said his country stands by Egypt by all means.
In his remarks ahead of the conference, Lt. Gen. Abdulelah Al Saleh, the IMCTC acting secretary-general said: “The meeting marks the official launch of the IMCTC’s operations at our center in Riyadh. The center provides an open platform for willing IMCTC member countries to exchange best practices and coordinate their counter-terrorism efforts, enabling culturally appropriate regional and local solutions to counter terrorism.”
Organisers said the conference is expected to touch upon terms of reference and future strategies of the coalition that will focus on four “counter-terrorism domains”, including ideology, military, communications and counter financing in its fight against terrorism. While Dr Ahmed Al Kholifey, Saudi Central Bank governor will speak on ways to counter terror financing, the coalition’s military commander General Raheel Sharif will speak on military strategies to fight terrorist groups. Sources said Sharif, Pakistan’s former army chief, is likely to play an important role in reaching out to international bodies, including NATO to build alliances.
In a statement provided to media ahead of the Riyadh meeting, General Sharif said: “The biggest challenge in the 21st century, especially in the Muslim world, is confronting the dangerous phenomenon of terrorism. The IMCTC encompasses an integrated approach to coordinate and unite on the four key domains of ideology, communications, counter-terrorism financing, and military, in order to fight all forms of terrorism and extremism and to effectively join other international security and peacekeeping efforts.”
The coalition was announced in by Saudi Arabia in December 2015 “to form a unified pan-Islamic front against terrorism”. Later in March 2016, military chiefs from Islamic countries met in Riyadh and affirmed “their determination to intensify efforts in fighting terrorism through joint work according to their capabilities, based on the desire of each member country to participate in operations or programs within the IMCTC framework as per its policies and procedures, and without compromising the sovereignty of the Coalition member countries.”
According to the coalition’s website www.imctc.org, the IMCTC’s objectives include
presenting a unified front against terrorist organizations and their attempts to destabilize security and distort the image of Islam and Muslims.
“As an official platform for open and transparent cooperation, the IMCTC is a coalition of willing countries that brings together those who look forward to participating in an active effort to combat terrorism. Furthermore, the IMCTC actively seeks to collaborate with international’s organization’s efforts in countering terrorism,” the coalition’s strategic document says.