Saudi Twitter account invokes 9/11 imagery in 'threat' to Canada

Saudi Twitter account invokes 9/11 imagery in 'threat' to Canada
A Twitter account reportedly linked to the Saudi royal family made a seriously bad error of judgement as a diplomatic rift between Canada and Saudi Arabia erupted.

3 min read
06 August, 2018
The threatening tweet has since been deleted [Twitter]
A verified Saudi Twitter account curating infographics for the kingdom has kicked up a storm after posting a threatening image showing an Air Canada flight heading toward Toronto's CN Tower, as diplomatic tensions between the two countries erupted.

The account, Infographic_KSA, published an image on Monday with the heading "Sticking one's nose where it doesn't belong", along with an Arabic proverb stating "He who interferes with what doesn't concern him finds what doesn't please him".

The writing stands before an image of a Boeing 767 plane descending toward the highest building in Toronto - eerily reminiscent of scenes witnessed during the September 11 attacks on New York. The image was published in a number of languages, including English, Arabic and French.

Saudi Arabia has frequently denied any links to the 9/11 attacks, despite 15 of the 19 hijackers being Saudi citizens. But online critics who linked the Twitter account to the vast Saudi royal family said it appeared to be at least an informal endorsement of Al-Qaeda's tactics on that day in 2001.

The tweet has since been deleted.
The tweet has since been deleted

The account, which is verified on Twitter and boasts more than 350,000 followers, states it is a "voluntary non-profit project" that is "managed by a group of Saudi youth who are interested in technology and social media facts backed by numbers & evidence".

But aviation analyst Alex Macheras, who described the image as "concerning rhetoric emerging from Saudi Arabia" said the account was connected to the royal court.

Even if the verified account is not a direct spokesperson for the Saudi rulers, very few accounts, NGOs or individuals are permitted to openly discuss politics in Saudi Arabia on a global platform. Riyadh is notoriously vigilant in its policing of its citizens' social media, and the infographic_ksa account has been active since 2015, spouting propaganda following the official and unofficial Saudi state narrative.

The post came amid an emerging rift between Saudi Arabia and Canada which broke out late on Sunday after Canada published a statement condemning the imprisonment of female Saudi activists.

Saudi Arabia responded by expelling the Canadian ambassador and recalling its envoy while freezing business ties with Ottawa, over what it dubbed "interference".

"The kingdom of Saudi Arabia... will not accept interference in its internal affairs or imposed diktats from any country," the foreign ministry tweeted.

"The kingdom announces that it is recalling its ambassador... to Canada for consultation."

The ministry said that the Canadian ambassador to Riyadh had 24 hours to leave the country, and announced the "freezing of all new commercial and investment transactions" with Ottawa.

The move came after the Canadian embassy in Riyadh said it was "gravely concerned" over a new wave of arrests of human rights campaigners in the kingdom, including award-winning gender rights activist Samar Badawi.

"We urge the Saudi authorities to immediately release them and all other peaceful #humanrights activists," the embassy tweeted on Friday.

Badawi was arrested along with fellow campaigner Nassima al-Sadah last week, "the latest victims of an unprecedented government crackdown on the women's rights movement", Human Rights Watch said.

The arrests come weeks after more than a dozen women's right campaigners were detained and accused of undermining national security and collaborating with enemies of the state. Some have since been released. 

The Saudi foreign ministry voiced anger over the Canadian statement.

"It is very unfortunate that the words 'immediate release' appeared in the Canadian statement... it is unacceptable in relations between countries," the ministry said.

Although the offending tweet was deleted, the image was subsequently edited - the aircraft taken out - and re-posted, perhaps hoping no-one would notice.

The edited tweet:

Follow us on Twitter: @The_NewArab