Saudi Arabia appeared to threaten a 9/11-style attack on Canada today after posting an image to Twitter that showed a passenger plane flying towards the CN Tower in Toronto.
The inflammatory photo was captioned: ‘As the Arabic saying goes: ‘He who interferes with what doesn’t concern him finds what doesn’t please him’.
The Saudi government-linked Twitter account, which has 354,000 followers, placed another caption over the tower reading: ‘Sticking one’s nose where it doesn’t belong’.
Responding to the mock 9/11 threat Elizabeth Tsurkov, a research fellow at the Israeli Forum for Regional Thinking, said: ‘This tweet by an official Saudi propaganda account has now been deleted.
‘Seems like they realized that reminding us that 15 of the 9/11 hijackers were Saudi is not a great idea’.
The 1814 feet high CN Tower is one of Canada’s best known landmarks. More than 500 people work in the tower which welcomes 1.5million tourists every year.
The apparent threat comes following a disagreement between the two nation’s over Canada’s criticism of Saudi Arabia for its jailing of women’s rights activists.
Saudi Arabia responded by freezing all new trade with Canada and expelling its ambassador over citing ‘interference’ in the desert kingdom’s domestic affairs. It added Canada’s actions were a violation of the country’s sovereignty.
A spokesman said: ‘The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia…will not accept interference in its internal affairs or imposed diktats from any country’.
In response, Canadian foreign ministry spokesman Marie-Pier Baril said the country would ‘always stand up for the protection of human rights, very much including women’s rights, and freedom of expression around the world’.
Among those detained by Riyadh is Loujain al-Hathloul, 28, who appeared with the Duchess of Sussex, then Meghan Markle, at a One Young World summit in Canada two years ago where they were pictured in a Vanity Fair photoshoot.
Yesterday the leading Saudi women’s rights campaigner Manal al-Sharif thanked Canada for ‘speaking up’ and asked when other Western powers would do the same.
Aviation analyst Alex Macheras said the account was connected to the Saudi royal court.
Desperately trying to wriggle out of the gaffe, the Twitter account responsible, @infographic_ksa, apologised saying:
‘Earlier we posted an image, which is why we deleted the post immediately. The aircraft was intended to symbolize the return of the Ambassador, we realize this was not clear and any other meaning was unintentional. We apologise to anyone who was offended’.
Canada last week said it was ‘gravely concerned’ over a new wave of arrests of women and human rights campaigners in the kingdom, including award-winning gender rights activist Samar Badawi.
Samar is a vocal campaigner for her brother Raif Badawi, a blogger who was arrested in Saudi Arabia in 2012 and later sentenced to 1,000 lashes and 10 years in jail for ‘insulting Islam’ in a case that sparked international outcry.
Badawi’s wife Ensaf Haidar has been granted asylum by Canada, where she is raising their three children now aged 14, 13 and 10 as a single mother.
Samar was arrested along with fellow campaigner Nassima al-Sadah last week, the latest victims of what Human Rights Watch called an ‘unprecedented government crackdown on the women’s rights movement’.
Freeland tweeted about the arrests on Thursday.
‘Very alarmed to learn that Samar Badawi, Raif Badawi’s sister, has been imprisoned in Saudi Arabia,’ she wrote.
‘Canada stands together with the Badawi family in this difficult time, and we continue to strongly call for the release of both Raif and Samar Badawi.’
The latest arrests come weeks after more than a dozen women’s right campaigners were detained and accused of undermining national security and collaborating with enemies of the state. Some have since been released.
The Saudi foreign ministry slammed the Canadian statement, signalling its growing irritation over Western criticism of the kingdom’s poor human rights record.
‘Using the phrase ‘immediately release’ in the Canadian statement is very unfortunate, reprehensible, and unacceptable in relations between states,’ the ministry tweeted.
Prince Mohammed, heir to the region’s most powerful throne, has introduced a string of reforms such as lifting a decades-long ban on women drivers in a bid to overhaul the kingdom’s austere image as it prepares for a post-oil era.
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