Mistaken Identity: How did an innocent man become the face of Saudi’s recent terror?

Published July 6th, 2016 - 05:23 GMT
The picture of Saudi soldier Ghannam al-Aytibi that circulated on social media sites following the recent terror attacks in Saudi Arabia. (Twitter)
The picture of Saudi soldier Ghannam al-Aytibi that circulated on social media sites following the recent terror attacks in Saudi Arabia. (Twitter)

In the aftermath of the recent attacks in Saudi Arabia that targeted the US consulate in Jeddah, a mosque in Qatif, and the mosque of the Prophet Muhammad in Medina, a picture of a supposed suicide attacker spread on social media websites, eventually winding up posted on numerous Arabic and English language media outlets.

The picture shows a dark-skinned man wearing a military outfit, often described as being a member of the ISIS cell who initiated the attack on the mosque in Medina. In the 24 hours following the attack, Ghannam Fahyan al-Aytibi (a member of the Saudi Arabian Armed Forces) was believed by many social media users to be man who initiated the suicide attack that led to the death of 4 police officers.

Eventually, the story reached al-Aytibi’s father, who told Huffington Post Arabic that his son is “among those who defend the nation”, and is presently stationed along the Kingdom’s southern border.

Al-Aytibis father has also threatened litigation. “I’ll sue everyone who shared the picture of my son and claimed he was the terrorist that blew himself up at the Prophet’s mosque!”

His anger comes with good reason. He claims that when his family heard the news about Ghannam he and his wife were in a state of shock and his daughters fainted upon hearing that their brother was being reported as the suicide attacker. He hopes that the government will intervene to support his family at this difficult time, and correct the distortion of his son’s image.

In support of the young soldier, many Saudis have taken to twitter with the hashtag “اعتذار_لغنام_العتيبي#" (I apologize to Ghannam al-Aytib).  

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