From the BBC to the Council on Foreign Relations, no one can find evidence of the incident.
On Monday, Trump told a group of soldiers on an Air Force base in Florida about all the terror attacks ISIS commits. As usual, he couldn’t resist taking a jab at the media, too.
“You’ve seen what happened in Paris and Nice. All over Europe it’s happening,” he said. “And in many cases the very, very dishonest press doesn’t want to report it. They have their reasons, and you understand that.”
Later that day, under intense pressure from the media and others, Trump’s administration released a list of 78 terror attacks committed by ISIS, some of which, it said, news outlets had failed to provide sufficient coverage of.
On its list of jihadi attacks that the press corps allegedly ignored, the administration included a January 2015 ISIS attack that supposedly occurred in Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia.
The problem is, no one seems to know what the heck they’re talking about.
The BBC was unable to find any news reports about an incident in Riyadh that month. Google searches performed by Dose in both English and Arabic similarly came up empty handed.
I called Max Abrahms, a professor of international relations at Northeastern University who pays extremely close attention to events in the Middle East, to see if he knew anything about it. “I’m not aware of any such attack,” Abrahms said.
Email inquiries to the Council on Foreign Relations, a DC-based think tank, provided no answers, either. Sabrina Khan, a member of CFR’s communications team, told Dose about a suicide bombing that occurred that month on Saudi Arabia’s border with Iraq, more than 600 miles from Riyadh, but did not mention any attacks in Riyadh specifically.
Trump’s communications staff did not immediately respond when I emailed them for more information about the supposed attack.
Of course, it’s possible that the Trump administration has information about an ISIS attack in Saudi Arabia’s most populous city. The president has access to classified information, from the CIA and elsewhere, that the public isn’t privy to. Khan noted that CFR doesn’t keep a list of every terror attack.
“There are so many terror incidents around the world that even teams of researchers who do this for a living can’t claim to have the universe of all those attacks in their data set,” Abrahms acknowledged.
It’s also possible that in their haste to justify Trump’s controversial claim in Florida?—?which frankly sounds like a conspiracy theory—the administration made an honest mistake.
But is it also possible that Trump just invented another terror attack, this time to vilify the media? I wouldn’t put it past him.