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The Siege of Mecca: The Forgotten Uprising in Islam's Holiest Shrine and the Birth of Al Qaeda
The Siege of Mecca: The Forgotten Uprising in Islam's Holiest Shrine and the Birth of Al Qaeda
The Siege of Mecca: The Forgotten Uprising in Islam's Holiest Shrine and the Birth of Al Qaeda
Audiobook8 hours

The Siege of Mecca: The Forgotten Uprising in Islam's Holiest Shrine and the Birth of Al Qaeda

Written by Yaroslav Trofimov

Narrated by Todd McLaren

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars



About this audiobook

On November 20, 1979, worldwide attention was focused on Tehran, where the Iranian hostage crisis was entering its third week. The same morning-the first of a new Muslim century-hundreds of gunmen stunned the world by seizing Islam's holiest shrine, the Grand Mosque in Mecca. Armed with rifles that they had smuggled inside coffins, these men came from more than a dozen countries, launching the first operation of global jihad in modern times. Led by a Saudi preacher named Juhayman al Uteybi, they believed that the Saudi royal family had become a craven servant of American infidels and sought a return to the glory of uncompromising Islam. With nearly 100,000 worshippers trapped inside the holy compound, Mecca's bloody siege lasted two weeks, inflaming Muslim rage against the United States and causing hundreds of deaths.

Despite U.S. assistance, the Saudi royal family proved haplessly incapable of dislodging the occupier, whose ranks included American converts to Islam. In Iran, Ayatollah Khomeini blamed the Great Satan-the United States-for defiling the shrine, prompting mobs to storm and torch American embassies in Pakistan and Libya. The desperate Saudis finally enlisted the help of French commandos led by Captain Paul Barril, who prepared the final assault and supplied the poison gas that knocked out the insurgents. Though most captured gunmen were quickly beheaded, the Saudi royal family responded to this unprecedented challenge by compromising with the rebels' supporters among the kingdom's most senior clerics, helping them nurture and export Juhayman's violent brand of Islam around the world.

This dramatic and immensely consequential story was barely covered in the press in the pre-CNN, pre-Al Jazeera days, as Saudi Arabia imposed an information blackout and kept foreign correspondents away. Yaroslav Trofimov now penetrates this veil of silence, interviewing for the first time scores of direct participants in the siege, including former terrorists, and drawing on hundreds of documents that were declassified upon his request. Written with the pacing, detail, and suspense of a real-life thriller, The Siege of Mecca reveals how Saudi reaction to the uprising in Mecca set free the forces that produced the attacks of 9/11 and the harrowing circumstances that surround us today.
PublisherTantor Audio
Release dateOct 2, 2007
The Siege of Mecca: The Forgotten Uprising in Islam's Holiest Shrine and the Birth of Al Qaeda

Yaroslav Trofimov

Yaroslav Trofimov joined The Wall Street Journal in 1999 and in 2001 became a roving foreign correspondent in the Middle East, Africa, Central Asia, and the Balkans. He lives with his family in Rome.

Reviews for The Siege of Mecca

Rating: 4.129032258064516 out of 5 stars

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  • Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
    Very interesting and informative look at the attempt by millenarian fundamentalists to take over Mecca in 1979. The reader also gets a a better understanding of the way the the Saudi kingdom works, particularly the relationship between the monarchy and the clergy. Some of the author's attempts at linking this event and the response of the Carter administration to it to wider global political events and trends seem overblown, but otherwise this is fairly insightful.
  • Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
    While fascinating, I came away from this book thinking that it held together a little better than it should have, considering how much of it is based on anonymous sources. It's not that I don't trust the author, the reality is that I simply have nothing to compare this to. Still, something is always better than nothing and it is an enjoyable read.One problem that I do have with Trofimov's narrative is the author's seeming contempt for the Carter Administration in the wake of the fall of the Shah of Iran, which became intertwined with the events that make up the main focus of this book. While Trofimov does little to hide his disgust for how the House of Saud handled this whole affair (and it would seem to be justly earned), it would be nice if he appreciated how much the fall of the Shah was "blowback" from the overthrow of Mossadegh, and how the Shah made his own share of mistakes, which does not come through in this narrative. It's as though the author seems to believe that Jimmy Carter could have waved some magic wand and easily returned the Shah to power, in the face of a popular uprising that the Iranian Army refused to fire upon.Granted that I'm a little prejudiced in this regard. One of my undergrad instructors at the time of the events described was the noted Persianist Richard W. Cottam, who was a US official in Iran at the time of the overthrown of Mossadegh; he thought it was one of the dumbest moves the United States made during the Cold War.
  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    Excellent. I recommend. I am writing a review in DhummitudeNorth.blogspot.ca
  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    ISIS? Al-Qaeda? This is where it all began. A riveting, well researched account.