PM, COAS witness ‘Thunder of the North’ in Saudi Arabia

RIYADH: Warplanes roared overhead, tanks rumbled across the desert and smoke filled the sky for the final day of what Saudi Arabia billed as the region’s biggest-ever military exercises.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif along with the top Saudi leadership witnessed the concluding ceremony of ‘Thunder of the North’ military exercises in Saudi Arabia, ISPR said on Thursday.

“The premier and the army chief with the Saudi leadership and other dignitaries were on the site of the North Thunder final manoeuvres,” said Lt-Gen Asim Bajwa, director general of the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), in a statement.

The 12-day “Northern Thunder” manoeuvres in the kingdom’s northeast included 20 nations from the Middle East, Africa and Asia, Saudi officials said.

The prime minister and COAS reached Riyadh on Wednesday to witness the military exercises as well as hold talks on the regional and bilateral issues. They were received at the King Saud Airport by Prince Muhammad bin Salman and other high-ranking officials. Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Tariq Fatemi also accompanied the top leadership to Riyadh.

As the dignitaries watched from a pavilion, Apache gunships fired rockets with a bone-shaking blast. Smoke rose from targets on the ground and commandos rappelled from helicopters. Fighter jets streaked through the sky releasing orange flares, artillery shells whistled through the air and heavy machinegun fire boomed from across the drill site, which stretched for dozens of kilometres.

The exercises took place near Hafr al-Batin city, close to the Kuwaiti and Iraq borders. Saudi Arabia’s chief of staff, General Abdulrahman al-Bunyan, commanded the exercise and called it “the largest Arab and Islamic military gathering” in the region.

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