February 10, 2009: Saudi Arabia has issued another terrorist "most wanted" list. The 85 suspects are all men not living in Saudi Arabia, but believed to be engaged in planning new attacks. All but two of them (Yemenis) are Saudis. The first such list, issued in 2004, had 26 names. Within two years, all but one of those on the list were killed, captured or surrendered.
At first, al Qaeda terrorists seemed like they might do some serious damage in Saudi Arabia. In 2003-4, they made four major attacks. These killed 68 people, including twelve Americans. But most of the dead were Saudis, and this turned the population against the terrorists. All the planned terror attacks since then have been aborted by security forces, usually via tips from Saudi civilians. Most Islamic terrorists have now fled the kingdom.
Saudi Arabia was saved from worse trouble with local terrorists by the growing violence in Iraq between the Sunni Arab minority, and the Shia majority. This attracted many Saudi fanatics, and greatly depleted the number of al Qaeda backers inside Saudi Arabia. Over 5,000 Saudi Islamic radicals are believed to have died in Iraq. From 2003-7, up to half the suicide bombers have been Saudis, and about half the foreigners held in U.S. military prisons in Iraq were Saudis. Back in 2007, American intelligence believed about 45 percent of the foreign fighters (less than ten percent of all terrorists there) were Saudis. The next largest group was Syrians and Lebanese (15 percent), followed by North Africans (10 percent). The other 30 percent were from all over, including Europe.
The terrorist violence in Saudi Arabia greatly increased after the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, which enraged al Qaeda. Even though Saudi Arabia officially condemned this operation, it was seen as an infidel occupation of the al Qaeda homeland. So the terror attacks in Saudi Arabia began, because the Saudi government had not resisted the "crusaders" with force. The Saudis had been preparing for this terrorism, and over the last six years, over a thousand al Qaeda members have been killed or prosecuted there. Several thousand more were arrested and released, often after a period of rehabilitation. Radical clergy were ordered to halt their pro-radical preaching. All clerics were encouraged to point out the religious errors in the thinking behind al Qaeda and other Islamic terrorists. The Saudi royalty have always had considerable control over the Islamic clergy (who are all, in effect, state employees.)
A large minority of Saudis still support al Qaeda, but it's the majority who do not, that make it nearly impossible for the terrorists to operate in their "homeland." Killing civilians will do that, and al Qaeda has not been able to figure out how to fight without shedding the blood of innocents. So the innocents are taking their revenge.