On November 20, 1979, hundreds of gunmen stunned the world by seizing Islam's holiest shrine, the Grand Mosque in Mecca. Armed with rifles that they had smuggled inside coffins, these men came from more than a dozen countries, launching the first operation of global jihad in modern times. With nearly 100,000 worshipers trapped inside the holy compound, Mecca's bloody siege lasted two weeks, inflaming Muslim rage against the United States and causing hundreds of deaths. This dramatic and consequential story was barely covered in the press in these pre-CNN days, as Saudi Arabia imposed an information blackout and kept foreign correspondents away.
In his new book The Siege of Mecca, Yaroslav Trofimov reveals the roots of today's Islamic extremism and how the Saudi reaction to the uprising set free the forces that later produced the attacks of 9/11- World Affairs Council of Northern California
Yaroslav Trofimov is a Correspondent for the Middle East, Africa, and Central Asia Bureau of the Wall Street Journal
Yaroslav Trofimov was born in Kiev, Ukraine, in July 1969. From there one winter day he was plucked by his parents and transported to the tropical paradise of Madagascar, where he owned a pet lemur monkey and learned to read (French) under a banana tree in the garden.
Since then, he was addicted to travel. Holder of a Master of Arts degree from New York University, Trofimov worked as a reporter in the U.S., France and the former Soviet Union before he first set foot in the Middle East in the spring of 1994, just as the Oslo peace process began.
Based in Jerusalem, he learned Arabic and Hebrew and covered his fair share of suicide bombings, shootings and Katyusha rocket attacks, traveling from Lebanon to Gaza to the Persian Gulf. One afternoon in 1997, he drove into a West Bank shootout with his wife - barely a week after the birth of their first baby.
That year, Trofimov moved to Rome, Italy - where he wore a pinstriped suit and a tie every day, writing about Europe's corporate magnates and slick politicians, first for Bloomberg News, and then for The Wall Street Journal, which he joined in 1999.
A few hours after Sept. 11, 2001, the Journal asked Trofimov to return to the Middle East. Trading the suit for khaki pants and hiking boots, he's been on the road ever since, rarely spending more than a week or two in Rome between assignments that took him from Baghdad to Bosnia to Beirut to Mecca. His books are the result of these wanderings across the Islamic world, encapsulating experiences of two major wars and countless smaller conflicts in over a dozen Muslim lands.
Author and journalist Yaroslav Trofimov discusses the Saudi Government's use of violence within the Grand shrine of Mecca during the two-week siege of the Grand Mosque. He claims the event sparked modern day Islamic extremism.