Saudi Arabia has unveiled a 900km multi-layered fence along its border with Iraq, as part of efforts to secure the kingdom’s vast desert frontiers against infiltrators and smugglers, state media SPA has said.
King Abdullah announced the launch of the first stage of the border security programme late on Friday, which stretches from Hafar al-Batin, near the Iraq-Kuwait border to the northeast town of Turaif close to Jordan.
The project, which includes five layers of fencing equipped with watch towers, night-vision cameras and 50 radars is aimed at cutting the “number of infiltrators, drug, arms and cattle smugglers to zero”, SPA said.
The border programme, which was first discussed in 2006, came amid growing concern over neighbouring Iraq’s deteriorating security situation.
In 2009, Riyadh signed a deal with European aerospace and defence contractors EADS to secure the Iraq border, but with increasing fears over infiltration by anti-government groups and al-Qaeda, the interior ministry expanded the scope to cover all the country’s borders.
Saudi Arabia has also struggled to battle domestic terrorism since al-Qaeda first launched a string of attacks around a decade ago aimed at toppling the monarchy.
Saturday’s announcement comes amid the advance of the Islamic State group who have seized large swathes of territory in Iraq and Syria.
The kingdom has taken huge steps to protect its 800km border with Iraq, and in July sent 30,000 soldiers to its border with Iraq after Iraqi soldiers withdrew from the area.
Relations between Saudi Arabia and Iraq have been deeply strained since Riyadh accused the outgoing Iraqi prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, of creating the conditions for the Islamic State group to emerge by marginalising its Sunni Arab minority.