Saudi Arabian group apologizes for posting image appearing to threaten Canada with 9/11-style attack
Saudi youth group quickly deleted the image and issued an apology
A Saudi Arabian organization is apologizing after posting an image on Twitter appearing to show an Air Canada plane heading toward the CN Tower in a way that is reminiscent of the 9/11 attacks in the U.S.
"As the Arabic saying goes: 'He who interferes with what doesn't concern him finds what doesn't please him,'" reads a caption superimposed over the image. The infographic also accuses Canada of "sticking one's nose where it doesn't belong."
It was posted on the Twitter account of Infographic KSA which, according to its website, is a Saudi youth organization made up of volunteers interested in technology.
The Infographic KSA account is verified by Twitter and has over 350,000 followers, with another 88,000 on Instagram. It has a history of posting messages that are supportive of the Saudi government.
Social media users pointed out the image seemed to reference the Sept. 11 attacks, when passenger airliners were flown into the towers of the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington. Over 2,700 people were killed in those attacks. Fifteen of the 19 hijackers were Saudi citizens.
The move follows the outbreak of a public spat between the governments of Canada and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia over human rights.
Saudi Arabia ordered the Canadian ambassador to leave the country and recalled its own ambassador on Sunday after Global Affairs Canada sent a tweet expressing "grave concern" over the recent arrests of civil society and women's rights activists and calling for their "immediate release."
Canada is gravely concerned about additional arrests of civil society and women’s rights activists in <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/SaudiArabia?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#SaudiArabia</a>, including Samar Badawi. We urge the Saudi authorities to immediately release them and all other peaceful <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/humanrights?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#humanrights</a> activists.—@CanadaFP
Saudi Arabia's Foreign Ministry responded on Twitter saying "KSA through its history has not and will not accept any form of interfering in the internal affairs of the Kingdom." Saudi Arabia also announced Sunday it would be suspending all new trade and investment transactions with Canada.
<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Statement?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Statement</a> | KSA through its history has not and will not accept any form of interfering in the internal affairs of the Kingdom. The KSA considers the Canadian position an attack on the KSA and requires a firm stance to deter who attempts to undermine the sovereignty of the KSA.—@KSAmofaEN
After social media users pointed out the threatening nature of the photo, Infographic KSA deleted the tweet and posted an apology.
"The aircraft was intended to symbolize the return of the ambassador," read the tweet. "We realize this was not clear and any other meaning was unintentional."
The image was later reposted without the plane to Infographic KSA's Twitter and Instagram accounts.
Just after 3 p.m. on Monday, the Saudi ministry of media announced it had launched an investigation into the account after receiving a complaint.
"The ministry has ordered the owner of the account to shut it down until investigations are completed," read the tweet.
Based on a complaint filed to the ministery of Media about a post by <a href="https://twitter.com/Infographic_ksa?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@Infographic_ksa</a>, the ministry has ordered the owner of the account to shut it down until investigations are completed, according to electronic broadcasting laws in KSA. <a href="https://t.co/jD2maoOyEV">pic.twitter.com/jD2maoOyEV</a>—@media_ksa
Amarnath Amarasingnam, a senior research fellow at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, said it is difficult to say but the organization seems to be connected to the Saudi media ministry.
He said that it "seems to exist solely to turn Saudi government press releases into pretty infographics for social media."
Asked if the Canadian government was aware of the image and whether it prompted any specific response, Public Safety spokesperson Scott Bardsley declined comment.
With files from CBC's Shanifa Nasser