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Saudi Crown Prince and Defence Minister Mohammed bin Salman (C) posing for a group picture with other defence ministers of the 41-member Saudi-led anti-terror force. — AFP
Saudi Crown Prince and Defence Minister Mohammed bin Salman (C) posing for a group picture with other defence ministers of the 41-member Saudi-led anti-terror force. — AFP

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Sunday opened the first high-level meeting of a kingdom-led coalition of Muslim nations against terrorism in Riyadh.

The inaugural meeting of the Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition (IMCTC) Ministers of Defence Council is being held under the theme of ‘Allied Against Terrorism’.

“A number of our member countries are under tremendous pressure while fighting well established terrorist organisations due to capacity shortages of their armed forces and law enforcement agencies," said Pakistan’s former army chief and the coalition’s military commander, Gen Raheel Sharif, at the event.

"The IMCTC will act as a platform to assist member countries in their counterterrorism operations through intelligence sharing and capacity building."

The alliance aims to “mobilise and coordinate the use of resources, facilitate the exchange of information and help member countries build their own counter-terrorism capacity,” Sharif said.

He was of the view that while all individual states were making efforts against the menace of terrorism, the required level of synergy and resources was lacking.

Sharif said that Muslim world was the biggest sufferer of the menace of terrorism and during last six years alone, more than 70% of all deaths attributed to terrorism had occurred in Muslim countries.

“Fight against the faceless enemy with extremist ideology is complex and challenging, and requires collaboration. Pakistan has turned the tide and has had defeated the menace,” he added.

Addressing the defence ministers and other high-ranking officials, the Saudi crown prince said that Sunday’s meeting sends “a strong signal that we are going to work together and coordinate together to support each other.”

However, the alliance doesn’t include Iran, Iraq or Syria, while member nation Qatar sent no one to attend the one-day Riyadh gathering amid a diplomatic standoff between Doha and four Arab nations led by the kingdom.

“The biggest danger of this terrorism and extremism is the tarnishing of our beloved religion's reputation [...] We will not allow this to happen,” said the royal who has been the driving force behind this coalition. “Today, we start the pursuit of terrorism and we see its defeat in many facets around, the world especially in Muslim countries. We will continue to fight it until we see its defeat.”

The crown prince also offered his condolences to Egypt, which suffered an attack on Friday by Islamic militants on a mosque in northern Sinai that killed 305 people.

“This is indeed a painful event and it is a recurrent and strong reminder the dangers of this terrorism,” he said.

The alliance described as a “41-nation pan-Islamic coalition” was announced in December 2015.

Pakistan was part of the initial list of 34 countries that had agreed to become part of the coalition.

Gen Raheel Sharif joined the alliance as its top commander in April this year. According to IMCTC, the former chief "presents the Military Domain, which aims to assist in the coordination, of resourcing and planning of military CT operations, facilitate the secure sharing of information, and encourage military CT capacity and capability building."

Core areas that the IMCTC seeks to address have been identified as ideology, communications, counter terrorist financing and military.