No One Spotted a Tweet Announcing a Potential ISIS Suicide Attack

Jul 09, 2014 at 9:00 AM ET

Six people were killed in a spate of Al Qaeda attacks over the weekend near the Saudi-Yemen border. Militants arrived at the Wadia border crossing, where they shot and killed the commander of a Saudi border patrol, seized his car and drove off into Saudi territory. A second car of assailants followed. Saudi forces were able to thwart the attack this time, killing three men and capturing a fourth. Then two suicide bombers blew themselves up the next day in Sharurah, a town 50 kilometers away, when security forces surrounded them after they managed to force their way into the local intelligence service building.

A day before the attacks, all attention was focused on Saudi Arabia’s northern border with Iraq. When Iraqi soldiers abandoned their positions along the 800-kilometer border, it left the Saudi frontier unprotected. The kingdom subsequently shifted 30,000 soldiers to the region to safeguard its territory from the encroaching onslaught of the Islamic State, or ISIS. Fighters of the terrorist organization have in recent weeks seized towns and cities close to Iraq’s border with both Jordan and Saudi Arabia prompting fears that ISIS could target one of the two regimes in their ongoing quest to expand their re-established caliphate.

While ISIS was busy distracting Saudi Arabia with menacing attacks near its border with Iraq, a predictive tweet posted by ISIS activist—not picked up by anyone—may have given a public warning that sypathizers to the terrorist group were preparing an attack on the border with Yemen.

Several hashtags began circulating earlier in June relating to Saudi security efforts targeting Al Qaeda in the area of Sharurah. Using one of these hashtags one Twitter account posted:

“In Sharurah [we have] our greatest knights and suicide bombers. They will commit a suicide attack in the police investigation building with the help of God.”

Three days later, the attack was carried out in that exact manner and location that were detailed in the tweet. Some Saudis have also picked up on the tweet and have been angered by the perceived intelligence failure:

“Where is the intelligence and the investigators? The tweet was posted three days ago and states the exact target.”

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), a subordinate group and branch of the core Al Qaeda, has claimed responsibility for the attacks. In recent weeks, their loyalty and affiliation with Al Qaeda has been brought into question. The group released an audio recording on June 17 calling on all Muslims to support Al Qaeda’s rival, ISIS. Experts have theorized that if ISIS is successful in luring away any slivers of Al Qaeda support, it will most likely come from the ranks of AQAP.

While there is evidence that suggests that the Twitter user is affiliated in some way to ISIS and located in the town where the attack happened, it is impossible to completely verify.

ISIS’ recent declaration of the new Islamic caliphate and advances in Iraq pose a direct challenge to Saudi Arabia, where it is believed they already have many activists and sympathizers operating from within the country. Specifically, a group in Sharurah called Shabab al-Hima was reportedly going around acting as an impromptu morality police, going into markets to find women who are not dressed modestly or without a male escort. Pundit Fahd Shoqiran theorized on Saudi television that the group is a product of the ISIS:  “I believe that this group is influenced from the current state of the Middle East and especially from the ISIS. In the last 30 years, we see different Salafi groups active and currently they are influenced by the ISIS.”