Amid an escalating diplomatic spat between Canada and Saudi Arabia, a Saudi youth organization shared and then deleted an image on Twitter that appeared to show an Air Canada plane heading toward the CN Tower in Toronto, evoking images 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 message superimposed over the image from the Twitter account @infographic_KSA on Monday. It also accused Canada of “sticking one’s nose where it doesn’t belong.”
On its website, Infographic KSA describes itself as a “voluntary non-profit project” operated by “a group of Saudi youth who are interested in technology and social media Facts backed by numbers & evidence.”
Many on social media were quick to point out that the tweeted image was reminiscent of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, in which planes were deliberately flown into the World Trade Center towers in New York and the Pentagon, killing nearly 3,000 people.
Fifteen of the 19 hijackers were Saudi citizens, while the Saudi government has long been accused of aiding the attack.
Then Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was born into a wealthy Saudi family.
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Infographic KSA later tweeted another image with the plane removed, before apologizing for its original tweet.
“Earlier we posted an image which was inappropriate, which is why we deleted the post immediately,” read the tweet from the account, which has since been removed. “The aircraft was intended to symbolize the return of the Ambassador, we realize this was not clear and any other meaning was unintentional. We apologize to anyone who was offended.”
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The director of communications for the Saudi embassy in Washington said the tweet was shocking and was being investigated, adding that the infographic was “(unintentionally) questionable.”
The Saudi Ministry of Media later ordered the account to shut down “until investigations are completed.”
The group’s Instagram account remains up, however, and contains scores of infographics and cartoons celebrating different facets of Saudi domestic and foreign policy, and rebuking the country’s rivals and critics.
Infographic KSA’s posts back the Saudi-led coalition’s military campaign in Yemen, and claim that Saudi Arabia has created a “package of development projects” for Yemen, while Iran-backed Houthi rebels are the ones responsible for loss of civilian lives and damage to infrastructure.
They also state that criticism from the United Nations, which has blamed the war for causing a humanitarian catastrophe in Yemen, are “negligent” and based on false data.
The group also takes aim at Iran, with one post stating that Saudi Arabia is synonymous with peace, stability and prosperity, while Iran continues to support “sectarianism, hate and violence.”
It also accuses Iran of being the world’s worst perpetrator of child executions, even though Amnesty International, in a July report, claimed that Saudi Arabia too continues to execute youth offenders, often handing them death sentences based on “confessions” possibly extracted through torture.
Another Instagram post appears to celebrate U.S. President Donald Trump’s recent tweet directed at Iran, stating, “You Reap What You Sow, Rouhani,” in reference to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.
There are also posts condemning Qatar, a country with which Saudi Arabia cut off diplomatic ties early last year. Infographic KSA accuses Qatar of supporting terrorist organizations in Iraq and Syria, and states that the Saudi boycott of Qatar was directly responsible for reducing the dissemination of Islamic State propaganda.
The Instagram account also addresses various areas of Saudi achievement in realms including women’s empowerment, economic development and space exploration, and features posts on various topics in the news including the FIFA World Cup and the Thai cave rescue.
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The social media stir comes as Saudi Arabia ordered the expulsion of the Canadian ambassador and froze all new trade deals between the two nations, after Canada said it was “gravely concerned” about recent arrests of human rights activists in Saudi Arabia.
The Saudi foreign ministry said it rejected Canada’s characterization of the arrests in Saudi Arabia, and accused Canada of “blatant interference” in Saudi affairs.
Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said Monday that Canada wouldn’t back down from its support of human rights, and said her government would wait to hear more details from the Saudis before responding to its decision.
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