An announcement carried by the Saudi Press Agency said the alliance was established because terrorism “should be fought by all means and collaboration should be made to eliminate it”.
While Saudi Arabia’s regional rival, Shia Iran, is not part of the coalition, the alliance brings together diverse Muslim countries from several continents, including Mali, Malaysia, Pakistan, Lebanon, and Egypt as well as neighbouring Gulf countries such as the United Arab Emirates.
Saudi Arabia currently leads a military intervention in Yemen against Shia rebels and is part of the US-led coalition bombing Islamic State (IS) in Iraq and Syria.
The press agency statement said Islam forbids “corruption and destruction in the world” and that terrorism constitutes “a serious violation of human dignity and rights, especially the right to life and the right to security”.
Calling Muslim extremism a disease, Saudi Arabia announced a coalition of Islamic nations to fight terror. https://t.co/UBjS7fUE3N— CNN Breaking News (@cnnbrk) December 15, 2015
At a rare news conference, Saudi deputy crown prince and defence minister Mohammed bin Salman said the new Islamic military coalition would work to counter the Sunni extremist IS group and develop mechanisms for working with other countries and international bodies to support international counter- terrorism efforts.
“Currently, every Muslim country is fighting terrorism individually so co-ordinating efforts is very important,” he said, adding that the joint operations centre would be established in Riyadh to “co-ordinate and support military operations to fight terrorism” across the Muslim world.
Smaller member states included in the coalition are the archipelago of the Maldives and the island-nation of Bahrain. Other Gulf Arab countries such as Kuwait, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates are also in the coalition, though notably absent from the list is Saudi Arabia’s neighbour Oman.
However, Iraq and Syria, whose forces are battling to regain territory taken by IS and whose governments are allied with Iran, are not in the coalition.
Benin does not have a majority-Muslim population but it is also a member of the new counter-terrorism coalition.
All the group’s members are also part of the larger Organisation of Islamic Co-operation, headquartered in Saudi Arabia.