Counter-Terrorism: Recruiting Suicide Bombers Gets More Difficult

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September 22, 2005: Saudi Arabia is still having a hard time accepting the fact that 79 percent of the 911 attackers were Saudis. That feeling was made worse when reports coming out of Iraq indicated that up to half the al Qaeda suicide bombers, who were mostly killing Iraqis, were Saudi volunteers. Naturally, the Saudis conducted their own study, and concluded that only twelve percent of those suicide attackers were Saudi (20 percent were Algerian, 18 percent Syrian, 17 percent Yemeni, 15 percent Sudanese and 13 percent Egyptian.) Many Saudis believe that, either it's just a lie that so many Saudis were involved in 911, or that evil al Qaeda (or maybe the Israelis) deceived weak minded young Saudis into getting involved. Meanwhile, the Saudi government has added new counter-terror efforts to keep Saudi volunteers out of Iraq. These efforts seem to be working, judging from the experience Iraqi police are having with Saudi al Qaeda volunteers of late. The captured Saudis (who have often fled from al Qaeda control) tell of deception and coercion being used to get them into Iraq to serve as suicide bomber. Such desperate measures to obtain suicide bombers is not unusual. The Palestinian terrorist organizations had to use similar coercive techniques when they ran short of volunteers. Some bad publicity, or a lot of failed attacks (and live bombers being sent to prison for a long time), would discourage a lot of potential volunteers. To make up the shortage, kidnapping, blackmail or other forms of coercion would be used.

The Iraqi government has captured many Saudi volunteers, and presented them on television shows intended to show government success against the terrorists. Several of the recent captives were Saudis who told a convincing tale of kidnapping, coercion and not really wanting to have anything to do with suicide bomb attacks. Based on reports from all over the world, it would appear that al Qaeda is running into recruiting problems. While millions of (mostly young) Moslems, the world over, profess a willingness to be suicide bombers, very few actually follow through, and find themselves doing the deed. Partly, this is because the middlemen, who find the volunteers, and get them to the teams that can train, equip and guide the volunteers to the target, are few, and often on the run from the police. Not only is Saudi Arabia finding and arresting (or sometimes killing) these middlemen, so are many European nations. Recently, France arrested six such middlemen, who had recruited about two dozen French Moslems for suicide bomber duty. The police arrested everyone before anyone could travel to the Middle East. Similar arrests have been made in other European nations recently. For the past four years, European police have been digging into the Islamic radical underground in their own back yards. It's been slow going, but results have become  more frequent as more information piles up. Meanwhile, in Iraq, American and Iraqi military operations have done major damage to the terrorist infrastructure. U.S. commanders say they have destroyed some 80 percent of the terrorist infrastructure in northern central Iraq over the last month. The survivors of terrorist organizations are scrambling to find other towns or neighborhoods where they can rebuild their operations (bomb workshops, safe houses for suicide bombers and technical staff). This is getting more difficult, as more Sunni Iraqis turn against the terrorists, and use the growing number of cell phones to rat out the bad guys.

Saudi Arabia is angry with al Qaeda for other reasons as well. With a large Shia minority, official Saudi policy is that Shia are not heretics. But many Saudi Sunnis believe otherwise, and the government has long looked the other way as some Sunni clergy preached that Shia are heretics, or worse. No more of this is allowed (some of theses preachers have gone underground) officially, and the Saudi government has openly condemned al Qaeda for advocating "war" against Iraqi Shia. These efforts are long over due, but they are often too late. Decades of allowing radical Sunni clergy to preach hatred of the Shia, and all non-Moslems, has created millions of Moslems who believe all this hateful stuff. You can't just turn it off like a faucet. It's going to take a generation to eliminate the attitudes that provide all the pro-terrorist attitudes. 

 


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