The Saudi capital is set to host the inaugural meeting of a 41-member pan-Islamic military coalition to counter terrorism on Sunday.
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. 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 centre in Riyadh.
“The centre 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”.