The Islamic State is claiming responsibility for an early Monday-morning altercation involving four militants and a Saudi border patrol post on the Iraq-Saudi border that left three Saudi border officers dead and two others injured.
The incident marks the first documented attempt at infiltration into Saudi Arabia by ISIS operations in Iraq since the terrorist group expressed desire to expand the claiphate into the Desert Kingdom in late November.
According to the Saudi Press Agency, four militants were spotted trying to sneak across the border into Saudi Arabia close to a Saudi border post near the town of Arar around 4:30 a.m. When a Saudi border guard arrived to try and halt the four individuals from advancing across the border, the militants open fired and killed the border guard.
The border patrol responded by sending more guards from the patrol to go after the militants. Although guards were able to catch up with the militants, two more were killed when one of the terrorists detonated a suicide belt. The four militants were all killed in the incident.
The agency reports that Saudi Brigadier General Awdah al-Balawi, who is the commander of all Northern border forces, was also killed in the attack.
In the wake of the incident, the Islamic State's official media wing in the Anbar province published a photo essay taking claim for the incident, International Business Times reports.
Although it is unclear as to whether this conflict would have occurred if the border patrol had not discovered the militants trying to sneak across the border, the altercation is the first direct conflict between ISIS and the Saudi government since ISIS announced its plan to expand its caliphate into the Arabian Peninsula.
"It is the first attack by Islamic State itself against Saudi Arabia and is a clear message after Saudi Arabia entered the international coalition against it," an Iraqi security analysts with close ties to the Saudi interior ministry, Mustafa Alani, told Reuters.
The Guardian suggests that since the head Saudi border officer in the Northern region was killed, the incident was not coincidental and could have possibly been premeditated and that particular post could have been targeted.
According to IBT, Arar is a plausible entry point for ISIS as their could be little resistance for ISIS to face in the sparsely-populated 700 miles from Arar to the Saudi capital of Riyadh.
The Saudi government has grown increasingly concerned over the threat of the Islamic State, which has seized large swaths of the neighboring Iraq Anbar province in the last year.
The Islamic State has also gained a following of supporters amongst radicals in Saudi Arabia. Considering ISIS' strict Islamic ideology is somewhat similar to that of the Ideology of the Saudi royal family, the foundation is already there for radicals to support the Islamic State brand of Islam.
In early December, the Saudi government arrested 135 extremists it accused of having links to terrorist groups such as the Islamic State. ISlamic State leaders have also called on "lone-wolf" attacks in the country. At least 40 of those arrested were accused of plotting an attack against Saudi Arabia's Shiite-dominated Eastern province.
The Saudi government has taken various steps to try and help quell the threat from the Islamic State. In August, Saudi Arabia donated over $100 million to the United Nation's Counter-Terrorism Centre in New York. Along with joining the U.S.-led coalition fight against ISIS, Saudi Arabia has also recently considered reopening an embassy in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad. The Saudi government has also recently built a 600-mile long fence along its border with Iraq.
Internationally-acclaimed journalist and former general manager of the Al Arabiya news network, Abdulrahman al-Rashed, opined in an op-ed that he doesn't think Saudi Arabia has much to worry about in regards to a potential incursion by ISIS.
"I don't think ISIS poses a threat to the kingdom although the organization has tens of thousands of followers in Iraqi provinces like Anbar, Nineveh and Saladin and in other Syrian areas," Rashed wrote. "The threat can be deterred by the efforts of border guards and by working in cooperation with the Iraqi government. The government change in Baghdad is a good sign for both countries. This ISIS threat can also be deterred by working in cooperation with Anbar's tribal leaders who've been closely cooperating with the Jordanians and working with them to protect border crossings."
In the past, Saudi Arabia has been successful in holding of threats from muslim extremists belonging to al-Qaeda.