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THE SIEGE OF MECCA by Yaroslav Trofimov


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On November 20, 1979, an event occurred in Saudi Arabia that would have dire consequences for America. Yet, at the time, it was hardly reported, partly because the Saudi government imposed a news blackout and partly because America was in the midst of another problem. While the Carter administration dealt with the humiliating hostage crisis, Islamist militants smuggled weapons into the Grand Mosque of Mecca—Islam’s holiest site—and took it over.

The militants were pious fundamentalists, who professed disgust at the sumptuous appetites of the Saudi royal family and thought that a takeover of the sacred mosque at Mecca would make a powerful statement. The leader of the attack was a wild-eyed preacher who convinced his followers that a new prophet was among them who would make their victory imminent. Things didn’t work out the way he planned. A daring raid led by three French special-forces soldiers managed to accomplish what Saudi troops could not. The remaining militants, who had holed up to make an Iwo Jima-like last stand in the tunnels underneath Mecca were either killed or captured. The House of Saud had retaken Mecca, but at a price because this time, angry young men like Osama bin Laden were watching, and stewing, and planning.

Full of the type of history Americans need concerning the cultural, political, and spiritual divide that has led to where we are today, The Siege of Mecca is a gripping story that was never covered in the history books.

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