Hezbollah Al-Hejaz

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Hezbollah Al-Hejaz
حزب الله الحجاز
LeaderAbdelkarim Hussein Mohamed Al-Nasser
Ahmed Ibrahim Al-Mughassil
Dates of operation1987–present (mostly inactive since 1989)[1][2]
Active regions Saudi Arabia (1987–1996)
IdeologyShi'a Islamism
Wilayat al-Faqih
Allies Iran

Hezbollah Al-Hejaz (Arabic: حزب الله الحجاز; literally Party of God in the Hejaz), or Hizbollah in the Hijaz, was a militant Shia organization operating in Saudi Arabia. It was founded in May 1987 in Saudi Arabia's Eastern Province.[3][1] It is pro-Khomeini as opposed to the pro-Shirazi Organization for the Islamic Revolution in the Arabian Peninsula.[4] In the years 1987-89 the party launched attacks against official Saudi targets inside and outside Saudi Arabia. After being implicated in the Khobar Towers Bombing in 1996, the party was outlawed in Saudi Arabia. Most of its members were arrested and the party practically ceased to exist. In 2014 it was designated a terrorist organization by the kingdom's government.[5]

Early Activities[edit]

The first years after the Shiite Islamic Revolution the relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia were tense and even hostile. A major source of conflict was the Saudi authorities’ treatment of the Shia minority in the Kingdoms Eastern Province. Another important factor was the Saudi support for Iraq in the Iran–Iraq War.

Relations between the two countries improved in the mid-1980s, but suddenly took a negative turn in 1987 after a violent episode during the Mecca pilgrimage of that year. Demonstrations of Iranian pilgrims were violently suppressed, which led to a stampede that killed over 400, mainly Iranian, pilgrims.

The Hizbullah of the Hijaz was founded in May 1987 with active encouragement from Iran. Hijaz is generally used as the name of the western part of Saudi Arabia. Here it was denoting the whole country, as using the name Saudi Arabia would imply recognition of the Al Saud ruling dynasty.[1]

The organization carried out several attacks in Saudi Arabia in the second half of the 1980s. In August 1987, an explosion occurred at a petroleum facility in Ra's al-Ju'ayma and in March the following year a petrochemical industry in Jubail was attacked. Ra's Tanura refinery was also attacked. Several Saudi policemen were killed and wounded in clashes with Hizbullah fighters. The Saudi authorities answered with wide-spread arrests among suspected Shia activists.[1] The organization was also strongly suspected of being responsible for a number of attacks against Saudi targets abroad, such as diplomats etc. These attacks were never officially claimed by Hezbollah al-Hejaz.[1]

After the end of the Iran-Iraq war in 1988, relations again thawed between the two countries. In 1993, King Fahd, responding positively to more moderate parts of the Shia opposition and met several of its representatives. Desiring to end Shiite opposition to the government, Fahd promised to work towards improving conditions for Shiites in Saudi Arabia. This took the form of, amongst other things, ordering the elimination of derogatory terms for Shiites from textbooks, removing certain other forms of explicit discrimination, and of allowing many Saudi Shiite exiles to return to Saudi Arabia.[6][7]

Although formally not a partner to the agreement and even voicing disagreements with it, Hizbullah al-Hejaz members were included in the amnesty and the organization generally abided by its terms. The organization’s members mainly refrained from overt opposition politics and concentrated on religious, social and educational activities.[1]

Khobar Towers bombing[edit]

In June 1996, a massive truck bomb exploded outside the US Air Force base at Khobar in eastern Saudi Arabia, killing 19 American soldiers and wounding several hundred. Subsequent American and Saudi investigations blamed Hizbullah al-Hijaz for the attack. Hezbollah al-Hejaz had never executed any violent attacks against American targets or against any Saudi targets since 1989.[1] Al-Qaeda on the other hand had executed a relentless campaign of attacks against American targets both before and after the Khobar bombing, in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere.

Osama bin-Laden and al-Qaeda eventually claimed responsibility for the Khobar attack.[8][9]

After the East Africa embassy bombings in 1998 and especially the September 11 attacks in 2001, several observers expressed doubts about the true culprits of the Khobar bombings.[10][11]

Former US Secretary of Defence William Perry declared in 2007 that he now believed that al-Qaeda was responsible for the Khobar attack. Back in the day, US had not taken al-Qaeda seriously.[12]

Others have said that on balance, the available evidence suggests Shiite responsibility.[4] After the Khobar bombing most of the members and people associated with the Hezbollah al-Hejaz were arrested by Saudi authorities. The organization practically ceased to exist.

Many of the members of the organization has since been released. Several others, including those indicted by US authorities, still remain in jail in Saudi Arabia without trial.[13]

The alleged head of the military wing of Hezbollah al-Hejaz, Ahmed Ibrahim Al-Mughassil, who was suspected of involvement in the Khobar bombing, was reportedly captured in Beirut in August 2015 and transferred to Saudi Arabia.[14]

Designation as a terrorist organization[edit]

Country Date References
Saudi Arabia 7 March 2014 [15]
 United Arab Emirates 15 November 2014 [16]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Matthiesen, Toby (Spring 2010). "Hizbullah al-Hijaz: A History of The Most Radical Saudi Shi'a Opposition Group". The Middle East Journal. 64 (2): 179–197. doi:10.3751/64.2.11. S2CID 143684557. Retrieved 19 August 2013.
  2. ^ Turki al-Suhail (25 August 2017). "Iran Planned to Revive 'Hezbollah Al-Hejaz' Under Al-Mughassil's Command". Asharq Al-Awsat. Archived from the original on 1 September 2017. Retrieved 9 August 2018.
  3. ^ Jones, Toby (3 June 2009). "Embattled in Arabia. Shi'is and the Politics of Confrontation in Saudi Arabia" (PDF). Combating Terrorism Center at West Point. Retrieved 16 April 2012.
  4. ^ a b Hegghammer, Thomas (2009). "Jihad, Yes, But Not Revolution: Explaining the Extraversion of Islamist Violence in Saudi Arabia". British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies. 36 (3): 395–496. doi:10.1080/13530190903338938. S2CID 144377193.
  5. ^ Nancy A. Youssef and Adam Baron (7 March 2014). "Saudi Arabia declares Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist group". Kansas City Star. Retrieved 8 March 2014.
  6. ^ Nasr, Vali (2007). The Shia Revival: How Conflicts within Islam Will Shape the Future. W. W. Norton & Company. pp. 201–2.
  7. ^ Saudi Shi'ites: New light on an old divide
  8. ^ Abdel Bari Atwan, The Secret History of al Qaeda, Saqi Books (2012), p.31
  9. ^ Interview with Shaykh Abu Basir, The head of al-Qa’idah in the Arabian Peninsula, ’’’Inspire Magazine’’’, No. 1, July 2010, Al-Malahem Media, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
  10. ^ Shahir Shahidsaless (3 September 2015). "The Khobar Towers bombing: Its perpetrators and political fallout". Middle East Eye. Retrieved 19 May 2021.
  11. ^ Gareth Porter, Al Qaeda Excluded from the Suspects List
  12. ^ "Perry: U.S. eyed Iran attack after bombing". UPI. 6 June 2007. Retrieved 19 May 2021.
  13. ^ HRW (2008) - Precarious Justice - Arbitrary Detention and Unfair Trials in the Deficient - Criminal Justice System of Saudi Arabia
  14. ^ Saudi Arabia holding main suspect in 1996 Khobar Towers bombing: report
  15. ^ "Saudi Arabia declares Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist group". McClatchy /Kansas City Star. Archived from the original on 8 March 2014. Retrieved 20 May 2021.
  16. ^ مجلس الوزراء يعتمد قائمة التنظيمات الإرهابية

External links[edit]