Saudi Arabia appears to threaten Canada with 9/11-style attack

Lamar Ellis
August 8, 2018

Saudi Airlines issued a tweet early Tuesday saying flights to and from Canada would be suspended starting August 13.

Saudi Arabia's main state wheat buying agency has told grains exporters it will no longer buy Canadian wheat and barley in its worldwide tenders, European traders said on Tuesday, as a diplomatic dispute between the two countries escalates. It recalled its envoy from Ottawa and gave Canadian Ambassador Dennis Horrak 24 hours to leave the country.

A Saudi Arabian organisation has apologised for tweeting a digitally-altered image that showed a plane flying towards Toronto's CN Tower - in an apparent reference to a 9/11-style attack - amid an escalating row over Canada's call for the release of detained human rights activists in the kingdom.

"The Kingdom views the Canadian position as an affront to the Kingdom that requires a sharp response to prevent any party from attempting to meddle with Saudi sovereignty", reads the announcement.

The dispute appears to have been sparked by tweets from Canadian diplomats, including one from Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland, who said she was "very alarmed" by news of the arrest of Samar Badawi, the sister of prominent activist and writer Raif Badawi.

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'Canada will always stand up for human rights, in Canada and around the world, and women's rights are human rights, ' Freeland told an audience in Vancouver.

According to Thompson Rivers University figures, there are 2,839 global students enrolled, nine per cent of which - 256 - are from Saudi Arabia, which makes up the third-most contingent of students at TRU, behind India (22 per cent; 625 students) and China (30 per cent; 852 students).

Prince Mohammed, heir to the region's most powerful throne, has introduced a string of reforms such as lifting a decades-long ban on women drivers in a bid to overhaul the kingdom's austere image.

The Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs responded by expressing concern over Saudi Arabia's actions, but resolving to stand their ground. His wife, Ensaf Haidar, lives in Canada and recently became a Canadian citizen.

In the fist comments by Washington since the dispute erupted, a U.S. State Department official said the United States had asked Riyadh for details on the detention of activists. "They are the best interlocutor for Canada in the region", he said. The country has already demanded its approximately 15,000 students studying in Canada return home within a month.

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