Hi-tech system to seal Saudi border

http://english.aljazeera.net/news/middleeast/2009/07/2009737247375815.html

Hi-tech system to seal Saudi border

Saudi Arabia is concerned about escalating violence and sectarian fighting in Iraq [AFP]

Saudi Arabia has signed a deal with Eads, the European defence and aerospace group, to build a hi-tech security system along its land and sea borders.

The $2.8bn scheme is aimed at curbing people, weapons and drugs smuggling across 9,000km of the Gulf state’s frontiers.

The surveillance system includes radar facilities, coastal detection centres, telecommunications networks and reconnaissance aircraft.

Brigadier General Mansour al-Turki, an interior ministry spokesman, said the project “will help our performance at the border so we will be able to minimise the ability of terrorists and criminals to take advantage of the borders to smuggle people, weapons and drugs”.

Top priority

It follows a deal made in March between Eads and Al Rashid, its Saudi Arabian partner, to install a razor-wire fence, thermal imaging and radar equipment along the country’s 900km border with Iraq.

“This deal covers the rest of the border. It involves much technology, radar, camera systems,” a Saudi official said.

Eads said the planned security system will “ensure border coverage is visible and managed at the sector level, whilst simultaneously providing situational awareness at the regional and national level”.

The border project was first envisaged in the 1990s in the wake of the first Gulf War to secure Saudi Arabia’s border with Iraq with physical fencing and high-tech monitoring.

But with increased worries over infiltration into the country by anti-government and al Qaeda operatives, and a rise in illegal immigration from around the region, the Saudi interior ministry expanded the scope of the programme to fence and electronically monitor all the country’s borders.

Securing the 1,300km border with Yemen is also a top priority after militants announced in January the creation of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

In April, Saudi officials discovered a cave in the remote Saudi mountains near the Yemeni border which they said was a way station for militants.

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