Counter-Terrorism: The Saudis Never Forget

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April 3, 2014:   Saudi Arabia continues to prosecute Islamic terrorists who made several major attacks in 2003 and 2004 during a brief al Qaeda terror campaign inside Saudi Arabia. A Saudi court recently condemned three of these terrorists (two Saudis and a Kuwaiti) to death for their role in three attacks made in 2003 against residential compounds.  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 were able to defeat al Qaeda. By 2009 over a thousand al Qaeda members were killed or prosecuted in the kingdom. 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.)

Saudi Arabia was saved from worse trouble with local terrorists by the growing (after 2003) 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 were 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 Saudis have maintained the intensity of their counter-terror operations since the 2003 outbreak. That year the first “most wanted list”, with 19 names on it, was issued. In 2004 Saudi Arabia issued another list with 26 names. In 2005 a third list, again with 26 names, was issued. Within a few years all but a few of those first three lists were killed, captured or surrendered. Saudi Arabia issued another terrorist most wanted list in 2009. The 85 suspects were all men believed to be engaged in planning new attacks. All but two of them (Yemenis) were Saudis. Eleven of these were men the American had been holding at Guantanamo but were released at Saudi insistence that they would be taken care of. Despite rehabilitation, these eleven men returned to their terrorist ways. So far 87 percent of the 85 men on the 2009 list have surrendered, been taken or killed. There have been no new lists since 2009.

At first al Qaeda terrorists appeared capable of doing 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.

A large minority of Saudis still support al Qaeda, but it's the majority who do not and that makes 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.

 

 


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