Grand Mosque seizure
|Grand Mosque seizure|
Saudi soldiers fighting their way into the Ka'aba underground beneath the Grand Mosque of Mecca, 1979
|Commanders and leaders|
|Casualties and losses|
|Part of |
The Grand Mosque seizure occurred during November and December 1979 when armed civilians calling for the overthrow of the
The seizure of
Following the attack, the Saudi
The seizure was led by
Al-Otaybi was from one of the foremost families of Najd. His grandfather had ridden with
"Al-Otaybi had turned against Bin-Baaz and began advocating a return to the original ways of Islam, among other things: a repudiation of the West; abolition of television and expulsion of non-Muslims". He proclaimed that "the ruling Al-Saud dynasty had lost its legitimacy because it was corrupt, ostentatious and had destroyed Saudi culture by an aggressive policy of
Al-Otaybi and Qahtani had met while imprisoned together for sedition, when al-Otaybi claimed to have had a vision sent by God telling him that Qahtani was the Mahdi. Their declared goal was to institute a theocracy in preparation for the imminent apocalypse. It is important to emphasize, however, that the 1979 rebels were not literally a reincarnation of the Ikhwan and to underscore three distinct features of the former: They were millenarians, they rejected the monarchy and they condemned the wahhabi ulama.
Many of their followers were drawn from theology students at the
Even after the seizure of the Grand Mosque, a certain level of forbearance by ulama for the rebels remained. When the government asked for a fatwa allowing armed force in the Grand Mosque, the language of bin Baz and other senior ulama "was curiously restrained". The scholars did not declare al-Otaibi and his followers non-Muslims, despite their violation of the sanctity of the Grand Mosque, but only termed them "al-jamaah al-musallahah" (the armed group). The senior scholars also insisted that before security forces attack them, the authorities must offer them the option to surrender.
Because of donations from wealthy followers, the group was well-armed and trained. Some members, like al-Otaybi, were former military officials of the National Guard. Some National Guard troops sympathetic to the insurgents smuggled weapons, ammunition, gas masks and provisions into the mosque compound over a period of weeks before the new year.