JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia: King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia has warned that the West will be the next target of the jihadists sweeping through Syria and Iraq, unless there is “rapid” action.
“If we ignore them, I am sure they will reach Europe in a month and America in another month,” he said in remarks quoted on Saturday by Asharq al-Awsat daily and Saudi-backed Al-Arabiya television station.
“Terrorism knows no border and its danger could affect several countries outside the Middle East,” said the king who was speaking at a welcoming ceremony for new ambassadors, including a new envoy from Saudi ally the United States.
The Islamic State (IS) jihadist group has prompted widespread concern as it advances in both Syria and Iraq, killing hundreds of people, including in gruesome beheadings and mass executions.
Lack of action would be “unacceptable” in the face of the phenomenon, King Abdullah said.
“You see how they [jihadists]carry out beheadings and make children show the severed heads in the street,” he said, condemning the “cruelty” of such acts.
“It is no secret to you, what they have done and what they have yet to do. I ask you to transmit this message to your leaders: ‘Fight terrorism with force, reason and [necessary]speed’.”
Asharq Al-Awsat said the king urged other countries to join the UN Counter-Terrorism Center, set up in 2011 to respond to new threats, and to which Saudi Arabia has made a grant of $100 million.
Britain also raised its terror alert level on Friday (Saturday in Manila) over fears of possible jihadist attacks as the United Nations said the number of refugees from the Syria conflict now tops three million.
British Prime Minister David Cameron told reporters there was “no doubt in my mind” that jihadists from the Islamic State (IS) group in Iraq and Syria had their sights set on targets in Europe.
Britain raised its terror threat alert level to “severe” meaning an attack is “highly likely.”
Despite the move, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Washington had no plans to follow suit, but US national security officials had been in close contact with London on the issue.
US President Barack Obama has admitted that he has no immediate strategy to tackle advancing IS jihadists.
In Geneva, UN refugee agency chief Antonio Guterres said Syria had become the “biggest humanitarian emergency of our era” after a million people joined the exodus in the past year alone.
They have fled the war-wracked country where jihadists have sown panic with atrocities and executions, including this month of scores of Syrian soldiers and a US journalist.
President Barack Obama has yet to decide whether the United States should launch raids against positions held by the Islamic State jihadist group in Syria to follow US air strikes on IS activities in Iraq.
US Secretary of State John Kerry called Friday for a global coalition to combat Islamic State fighters’ “genocidal agenda”.
Writing in the New York Times, Kerry said he and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel will meet European counterparts on the sidelines of a NATO summit in Wales next week, to enlist assistance.
They will then travel on to the Middle East to build support “among the countries that are most directly threatened”.
“With a united response led by the United States and the broadest possible coalition of nations, the cancer of ISIS will not be allowed to spread to other countries,” Kerry said in Friday’s op-ed piece.
Dampening prospects of imminent air strikes in Syria, Obama said he was still developing a comprehensive plan to defeat IS, which has overrun large swathes of Iraq and neighboring Syria.
“We don’t have a strategy yet,” Obama said, adding that he was sending Secretary of State John Kerry to the Middle East to build regional support against IS.
The Syria war has killed some 191,000 people since March 2011 but has taken on a new dimension as IS unleashed a shocking brutality.
Washington has launched air strikes in Iraq that have helped Kurdish forces claw back some territory lost to the jihadists earlier this month.
The Pentagon said the US military’s operations in Iraq cost an average of $7.5 million a day.
The American campaign has infuriated the jihadists who posted grisly video footage Thursday of their execution of a Kurdish fighter.
The video also shows other captive Kurds warning that they risk the same fate.
It follows another jihadist vide o showing scores of bodies in the desert that IS boasted were Syrian soldiers it captured and killed.
The jihadists have also carried out a spate of executions of civilians from religious minorities in northern Iraq.
1.6 million displaced Iraqis
“Whole communities that had lived for generations in northern Iraq are being forced to flee or face death just for their religious beliefs,” UN chief Ban Ki-moon said Friday.
His comment came as the International Organization for Migration said that more than 1.6 million Iraqis have been displaced this year, more than 850,000 this month alone.
“Many of their loved ones were killed or abducted by IS forces. Groups of people were reportedly forced by IS to jump off mountain cliffs, while others were taken away to an uncertain fate,” said IOM emergency coordinator for Iraq Brian Kelly.
A UN-mandated probe has charged that public executions, amputations, lashings and mock crucifixions have become commonplace in jihadist-controlled areas of Syria.
Meanwhile, Hollywood star and UN refugee agency goodwill ambassador Angelina Jolie made a plea for the end of Syria’s three-and-a-half year war.
“Three million refugees is not just another statistic. It is a searing indictment of our collective failure to end the war in Syria,” she said.
On the ground, regime forces blasted Damascus’s eastern district of Jubar on Friday as they sought to retake the strategic rebel-held sector.