Published On: Thu, May 9th, 2024
World | 4,721 views

Saudi Arabia forces ‘told to kill’ to clear land for new £803bn city | World | News

The “world’s biggest construction project” is at the heart of a major controversy after an ex-intelligence officer claimed authorities are using “lethal force” to clear the land in a bid to speed up the project’s completion.

Saudi Arabian officials have taken drastic action in attempts to make way for NEOM, a futuristic desert city eventually hoped to house around nine million people, coming it at a whopping £399bn cost. Dozens of companies, including some British firms, are involved in the construction process.

Col Rabih Alenezi, currently living in exile in the UK, told the BBC he was ordered to evict villagers from a tribe in the Gulf state to make way for The Line, part of eco-project, with one protester allegedly shot and killed while protesting against the development. has contacted the Saudi Arabian government and NEOM bosses for comment on the allegations.

The Saudi government and Neom management refused to comment. The mega-city is part of the country’s Saudi Vision 2030 strategy – as officials hope to make the country less dependent on oil in years to come. Despite receiving compensation from the state, it has been reported that those forced to relocate have been given amounts which are much less than originally promised.

Col Alenezi claims he was asked to enforce a clearance order in the al-Khuraybah area, a few miles south of The Line. The area has been inhabited by the Huwaitat tribe for generations – with many resisiting the new development.

The chilliing order, given in 2020, demanded that “whoever continues to resist should be killed”, he alleges. He faked a medical reason why he could not carry out the mission – but someone else took the reigns, resulting in the death of key protestor Abdul Rahim al-Huwaiti, who was shot dead after refusing the Land Registry’s request to evaluate his home.

Human rights organisations rubbished claims by the Saudi state that al-Huwaiti opened fire on security forces, and that he was killed in retailiation, instead claiming that he was actually murdered for resisting eviction.

Around 40 of his fellow villagers remain imprisoned, with five on death row, according to human right group ALQST. Many are being prosecuted on terror related charges. Others were arrested for paying tribute to him.

According to Col Alenezi, “[Neom] is the centrepiece of Mohamed Bin Salman’s ideas. That’s why he was so brutal in dealing with the Huwaitat.”

Saudi Arabia’s de-facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, claims NEOM and The Line are the beginning of a “journey to a greener future” for his oil-rich nation.

It is estimated to be more than 1,600 feet high and more than 2,100 feet wide – and will be entirely powered by renewable sources, covering an enormous area of 10,000 square miles.

‘The Line’ element of the new eco-region will be 105 miles long, with levitating trains and billions of trees. NEOM city will be governed by a fresh legal system rather than the Saudia Arabian government, which will be “drafted by investors” – with details remaining scarce.

A NEOM spokesperson told the BBC the futuristic The Line city would be the crowning glory of the project.

He said: “People say this is some crazy project that’s going to cost gazillions, but it’s going to be built module by module, in a manner that meets demand.”

The area where Neom is being built has been described as the perfect “blank canvas” by Saudi leader Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman. But more than 6,000 people have been moved for the project according to his government – and UK-based human rights group ALQST estimates the figure to be higher.

The BBC has analysed satellite images of three of the villages demolished – al-Khuraybah, Sharma and Gayal. Homes, schools, and hospitals have been wiped off the map.

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