‘Thunder’ in Saudi desert as major war games end

Published March 11, 2016
RIYADH: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, King Salman bin Abdul Aziz and leaders of other countries witness the closing moments of  the ‘North Thunder’ military exercises on Thursday.—INP
RIYADH: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, King Salman bin Abdul Aziz and leaders of other countries witness the closing moments of the ‘North Thunder’ military exercises on Thursday.—INP

HAFAR UL BATIN (Saudi Arabia): Warplanes roared overhead, tanks rumbled across the desert and smoke filled the sky on Thursday for the final day of what Saudi Arabia billed as the region’s biggest-ever military exercises.

The 12-day ‘Northern Thunder’ manoeuvres in the kingdom’s northeast included 20 nations from the Middle East, Africa and Asia, Saudi officials said.

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdul Aziz was joined by several foreign leaders for the final day of the exercise, which came as Riyadh vies to assert its leadership in the region.

Among them were Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Sudan’s Omar al-Bashir and Yemen’s Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi.

As the dignitaries watched from a pavilion, Apache gunships fired rockets with a bone-shaking blast. Smoke rose from targets on the ground and commandos rappelled from helicopters.

Fighter jets streaked through the sky releasing orange flares, artillery shells whistled through the air and heavy machinegun fire boomed from across the drill site, which stretched for dozens of kilometres.

The exercises took place near Hafar Ul Batin city, close to the Kuwaiti and Iraq borders.

Saudi Arabia’s chief of staff, Gen Abdulrahman al-Bunyan, commanded the exercise and called it “the largest Arab and Islamic military gathering” in the region.

Riyadh has adopted a more assertive foreign policy since King Salman took the throne early last year following the death of King Abdullah.

It leads a coalition fighting rebels in Yemen, participates in US-led air strikes against the militant Islamic State (IS) group and has offered to send special forces to fight IS in Syria.

Saudi Brig Gen Ahmed al-Assiri told reporters this week the manoeuvres were distinct from a 35-nation coalition to fight terrorism which Saudi Arabia announced in December.

An AFP reporter saw Pakistani, Egyptian, Kuwaiti and Sudanese troops alongside Saudis.

According to a statement from the PM House in Islamabad, Chief of Army Staff Gen Raheel Sharif and Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Tariq Fatemi also attended the ceremony.

The event included different activities, mainly air drops, armour movement and air assault through helicopters.

The exercise commenced on Feb 14 this year the King Khalid Military City in North Eastern Saudi Arabia, with the participation of various military disciplines of artillery, tanks, infantry, and air defence systems as well as naval forces of 21 countries. Military exercises involving all these brotherly countries focused on training forces on how to deal with terrorist groups, the statement said.

Published in Dawn, March 11th, 2016

Opinion

Is it child abuse?
24 Sep 2021

Is it child abuse?

The SNC’s language mix doesn’t address our children’s emotional needs.
The gathering storm
Updated 24 Sep 2021

The gathering storm

The growing US-China rivalry has transformed the geopolitical scene, in particular the Asian strategic landscape.
New realities and challenges
Updated 23 Sep 2021

New realities and challenges

Will the Afghan Taliban entrust to the UN the responsibility of receiving and disbursing all aid?

Editorial

24 Sep 2021

Costs of growth

IS Pakistan’s growth party over? Not yet. But both the State Bank and government are now cutting down on the items...
Smear campaign
Updated 24 Sep 2021

Smear campaign

It is commendable that the government has taken the matter as seriously as it has, and delved deep into cyber investigations.
24 Sep 2021

Rising dengue cases

THE dengue monster is once again rearing its head in different cities of Punjab. More than 820 cases have surfaced ...
Dialogue, at last
Updated 23 Sep 2021

Dialogue, at last

The govt has attempted to make the ECP controversial at a time when its input is critical for the poll reforms
AUKUS controversy
Updated 23 Sep 2021

AUKUS controversy

Instead of flexing its military muscle, the Western bloc needs to engage China at the negotiating table.
Provocative act
Updated 23 Sep 2021

Provocative act

Afghan Taliban flags have been found hoisted at Jamia Hafsa seminary three times since Aug 21.