Just next door to Saudi Arabia, ISIS is growing in both gaul and influence — and the world’s largest oil exporter is taking notice. In a move to take a stand against the Islamic State’s growing power, Saudis arrested 88 terrorism suspects on Tuesday who were allegedly planning to perform acts of violence both domestically and internationally, reported The Wall Street Journal.
While Saudis are somewhat divided in their support or rejection of ISIS, Saudi monarch King Abdullah said that the Saudi’s arrest of the 88 al-Qaeda cell members is a way to denounce the “sick ideas” that are spreading across the region by preying on impressionable youth and disgruntled Muslims.
“[I am] certain that after a month they will reach Europe and, after another month, America.”
The Saudi government has still not made entirely clear why the 88 were arrested, although Ministry of the Interior spokesman Mansour Al Turki did note in a televised news conference that nearly half of those arrested had previously been brought in on terrorist charges and at least one had been a sermon writer for extremist groups that spread ISIS’ message abroad.
Saudis arresting 88 terrorist suspects may seem like a large strike against ISIS, but even modest estimates put the Islamic extremist group’s membership between 10,000 and 20,000. More liberal estimates even peg the number of ISIS supporter around 80,000, but Lauren Squires, a counter-terrorism analyst at the Institute of War, told Canada’s CBC News says that these numbers work with an extremely loose definition of what an ISIS fighter is.
“When people throw out these numbers, I’d ask them what do they define as a fighter. We look at the battle-hardened battalion manoeuvre groups. We think of that as up to 20,000 [fighters].”
However, ISIS will still be hard to stamp no matter how many terrorism suspects are arrested. Current estimates believe that the group is taking in between $500,000 and $1 million a day through a brash stream of robberies, kidnapping and other brutal means of fundraising, according to Colin Clarke, an associate political scientist at the Rand Corporation.
“The group is like the Mafia. It really doesn’t discriminate in how it gets its money. Anything that’s a revenue generating activity, this group is engaged in.”
Furthermore, ISIS now controls around 90,000 square kilometers of land in the region, which is slightly larger than the state of South Carolina. Celebrating over the Saudi arrest of 88 possible ISIS terrorists may, therefore, be a bit premature.
[Photo via ISIS]