A dozen Saudi Arabian men who reportedly had gathered to watch the full moon rise over Dubai were arrested on suspicion of posing as guards in order to keep civilians from ascending the Sheikh Zayed Bridge, according to a security officer. Seven Emiratis and three Saudis were held by Dubai police at the bridge at 7.20 p.m. local time (2.20 a.m. EDT) on Thursday night after the men told officers they were from Saudi Arabia’s National Guard, prompting them to raid the bridge to ensure the incident was not a hoax, Colonel Hisham al-Shamdani of the Dubai Police’s Criminal Investigation Department told AFP. Only two were arrested, however. All others were taken in for questioning, but were later released as authorities found the group did not carry weapons or cause any damage, Mr. Al-Shamdani added. The bridge, the country’s largest bridge and part of its third bridge in Dubai, was scheduled to be lit up in the colours of the Saudi flag after the news broke, which Mr. Al-Shamdani said had prompted the men to try to stop civilians from approaching the bridge, according to AFP.
Saudi authorities have not yet commented on the arrests, although the Saudi Embassy in Washington posted a message on its official Twitter account saying the kingdom “did not have such personnel as reported in news reports.”
“We have not arrested any personnel from our Embassy as reported in local media,” the tweet said.
This is not the first time that Saudi security forces have made headlines in the Emirates. In 2012, an Emirati man claimed he was wrongly arrested by Saudi Arabian security forces for being in a Saudi city without permission. Another Saudi man who claimed he was mistaken for a person attempting to steal on Dubai’s first road toll station was also arrested for being in the wrong country.
Similar stories have circulated regarding suspected Saudi security agents in Dubai before, though none were true, while authorities in Dubai have regularly dismissed stories of civilians and security officials being mistaken for armed militants. “When [Arab] workers are arrested on the street it’s very strange because they are black,” a 29-year-old black Emirati woman told the BBC in 2012.
In December 2013, Dubai police said they would arrest anyone claiming to be an Emirati member of the country’s security forces. “We will only ask if the person feels he is a member of the security force and then we will release him,” Majid Farhat, a deputy commander of Dubai Police told Gulf News at the time. It’s not just foreign security forces who are mistaken. Two Emiratis who work at the Al Nasr Hospital in Dubai were reportedly arrested by police in November after they said they had been wrongly accused by Emirati security forces of setting off bombs in public, Gulf News reported. Night shifts at Dubai’s Islamic hospitals have also been the subject of controversial stories. A 27-year-old Saudi man working as a security guard was arrested in March after failing a night shift and making no calls to his family, while two Emirati security guards working at Dubai’s Burj Khalifa were arrested in July for being part of a Dubai hospital’s arson squad.
Citizens of countries across the Middle East and northern Africa, as well as the world’s richest nation, the United States, have been killed or injured in the worst car and building accidents in the city. One man died after falling from the 57th floor of the city’s tallest skyscraper, while another man died after being struck by a car and falling more than a kilometre from the top of the building.
There have also been dozens of building fires in the city since 2013, with some of the worst occurring on the same day. In December, a 63-year-old Emirati woman suffered burns after falling into a fire, while an Emirati died in August after falling down the stairwell of his apartment building.