Saudi Arabia fights pull of Islamic State

Just outside Riyadh, the dunes fill up at weekends with pleasure seekers, staking out picnic spots safe from the four-wheel drive vehicles that churn up sand as they race through the desert.

Mishan al-Onzi is hanging out with a group of his teenage friends. They are from the north of the country next to Iraq, where Islamic State (IS) controls large swathes of territory.

Mishan tells me that a friend from home has gone to Syria to join IS.

“Those from a lower class, who don’t have any awareness, those are the people Daesh looks for,” he says, using an Arabic acronym for the group.

“They are easy for Daesh to brainwash.”

According to the Ministry of Interior, some 2,600 Saudis have joined extremist groups in Syria since 2011, around 600 of whom have returned. Last year alone, 400 were arrested in relation to IS activities inside the Kingdom.