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Published by: aceleaf on Jul 11, 2009
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Grand Mosque Seizure
Grand Mosque Seizure
Kaaba mirror edit jj.jpgPilgrims circumambulating theKaabaduring theHajj
~10,000 Saudi NG,~3 French GIGN1,300-1,500 Militants
Casualties and losses
127? Saudi NG killed250? Dead,600? Wounded63 later executed
Grand Mosque Seizure
on November 20,1979, was an armed attack and takeover by armedIslamic fundamentalist dissidentsof theAl-Masjid al-HaraminMecca,Saudi Arabia, the holiest place inIslam.The insurgents declared that theMahdi, or redeemer of Islam, had arrived in the form of one of the insurgents' leaders,Abdullah Hamid Mohammed Al-Qahtaniand calledon Muslims to obey him.The seizure shook the Islamic world as hundreds of pilgrims present for the annualhajjweretaken hostage, and hundreds of militants, security forces and hostages caught in crossfire werekilled in the ensuing battles for control of the site. The siege ended two weeks after the takeover  began with militants cleared from the mosque.
Following the attack, the Saudi state implemented stricter enforcement of Islamic code.
The seizure was led byJuhaiman ibn Muhammad ibn Saif al Utaibi, who belonged to a powerfulfamily of  Najd. He declared his brother-in-lawMuhammad bin abd Allah al-Qahtanito be the Mahdi, or redeemer of Islam, whose coming at endtimes is
in manyahaadithof Muhammad. As predicted in one hadith about the Mahdi, Muhammad bin abd Allah al-Qahtaniwas a descendant of Muhammad himself. "His and his father's names were the same asMuhammad's and his father's, and he had come to Mecca from the north." Furthermore, the dateof the attack, November 20,1979, was the first day of the year 1400 according to the Islamic calendar, which according to another hadith, was the day that the Mahdi would reveal himself.
Juhaiman Saif al Otaibi was from "one of the foremost families of  Najd. His grandfather hadridden withAbd al Azizin the early decades of the century."
He was a preacher, a former corporal in the Saudi National Guard, and former student of revered conservativeSheikh AbdelAziz al Baaz,who went on to become the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia. Juhaiman had turnedagainst al Baz, "and began advocating a return to the original ways of Islam, among other things;a repudiation of the West; an end of education of women; abolition of television and expulsion of non-Muslims."
He proclaimed that "the ruling AlSauddynasty had lost its legitimacy, becauseit was corrupt, ostentatious and had destroyed Saudi culture by an aggressive policy of Westernization."
Otaibi and Qahtani had met while being imprisoned together for sedition, when Obeidi claimedto have a vision sent by God telling him that Qahtani was the Mahdi. Their declared goal was to
institute a theocracy in preparation for the imminent apocalypse. Many of their followers weredrawn from theology students at theIslamic University in Medina, which was known as a center of theMuslim Brotherhood. Other followers came fromYemen,Kuwait, andEgyptand also included some MuslimAfrican-Americans. The followers preached their radical message indifferent mosques in Saudi Arabia without being arrested.
 The government was reluctant toconfront religious extremists. Members of theulemacross-examined Otaibi and Qahtani for heresy, but they were subsequently released as being traditionalists harkening back to theIkhwan, like Oteibi's grandfather, and not a threat.
Due to donations from wealthy followers, the group was well-armed and trained. Somemembers, like Otaibi, were members of the National Guard.
Some National Guard troopssympathetic to the insurgents infiltrated weapons, ammunition, gas masks, and provisions intothe mosque compound over a period of weeks before the new year.
Automatic weapons werestolen from National Guard armories, and the supplies were hidden in the hundreds of tinyunderground rooms under the mosque that were used ashermitages.
In the early morning of  November 20,1979, the imam of the Grand Mosque, SheikhMohammed al-Subayil, was preparing to lead the prayers for the fifty thousand worshipers who had gatheredfor the first prayer of the Islamic year. He was interrupted by insurgents who procured weaponsfrom under their robes, chained the gates shut and killed several policemen.
The number of insurgents has been given as "at least 500"
and "four to five hundred", which included severalwomen and children who had joined Otaibi's movement.
At the time, the Grand Mosque was being renovated by theSaudi Binladin Groupin what was the most prestigious constructioncontract in theIslamic world. An employee of the organization was able to report the seizure tocorporate headquarters before the insurgents cut the telephone lines. A representative of theBinladin Group was thus the first to notifyKing Khalid.
The insurgents released most of the hostages, locking the remainder in the sanctuary, and took  positions in the upper levels of the mosque, with snipers in the minarets, from which theycommanded the grounds. No one outside the mosque knew how many hostages remained, howmany militants were in the mosque and what sort of preparations they had made. Soon after theseizure, about a hundred security officers from theInterior Ministryattempted to retake themosque and were decisively turned back with heavy casualties. The survivors were quickly joined by units of the Saudi Army and National Guard. The Pakistan Army, which was stationedat the city of Tabuk, was also called in to retake the shrine after poor results from the Saudi National Guard.
By the evening, the entire city of Mecca had been evacuated.Prince Sultan, then-Minister of Defense, rushed to the city to set up a field command. Sultan appointed his nephewTurki binFaisal Al Saud, head of theAl Mukhabarat Al A'amah, to take over the forward command post several hundred meters from the mosque, where Turki would remain for the next several weeks.However, the first order of business was to seek the approval of the ulema, which was led byAbdul Aziz bin Baz. TheQur'anforbids any violence within the Grand Mosque, to the extent that

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