November 20, 1979: The Assault On The Grand Mosque Of Mecca
On November 20, 1979, the Grand Mosque of Mecca was taken over by a group of armed men who wanted the Saud family to step down.
Juhayman al-Utayby – ©Wikipedia
This bloody story is often unheard of by younger generations. On November 20, 1979, Muharram 1st 1400, around 200 to 300 armed individuals took over Masjid al-Haram, the Grand Mosque of Mecca. They were commanded by a man called Juhayman ibn Sayf al-Utayby, a Saudi military who blamed the regime for its ties with the Americans and corruption.
Most surprisingly, Juhayman ibn Muhammad ibn Sayf al-Utayby insited his brother-in-law Muhammad ibn Abdallah al-Qahtany, also participating in the attack, be recognized as being the Mahdi, the savior of the end of time.
Bloodshed would have be a sacrilege, it was out of the question. The Kingdom’s authorities did not take any action until the Ulama issued a fatwa to lift the prohibition. Once they did, the Saudi armed froces began the assault, which ended up in a failure. More than a hundred men of the Saudi Arabian National Guard died.
Al-Utayby’s men were either killed during the assault or taken into custody – ©Wikipedia
So King Khaled of Arabia turned to France and its famous GIGN (National Gendarmerie Intervention Group). The super quick conversion of controversial Paul Barril – and some of his men – remained a historic moment. So the French led the Saudi troups and managed to put an end to Al-Utayby’s operation on December 5, 1979. He was beheaded a month later along with around sixty of his men.
On Thursday November 20, 2014, The New York Times’ Twitter account posted about this event which took place 35 years ago.
— NYT Archives (@NYTArchives) 20 Novembre 2014
[Translated from French ’20 novembre 1979 : la Grande Mosquée de La Mecque prise d’assaut’ by Mouna M.]