Saudis Say al-Qaida Trained Militants (AP) By FAIZA SALEH AMBAH JIDDAH, Saudi Arabia 07/29/03 8:15 PM)
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JIDDAH, Saudi Arabia - Saudi authorities said Muslim militants
arrested or killed in recent police raids were trained by al-Qaida in
Afghanistan and possibly Saudi Arabia itself, acknowledging for the
first time the kingdom may have been infiltrated by Osama bin Laden´s
The revelation that al-Qaida may have Saudi training facilities
contrasted with earlier attempts by Saudi officials to play down the
extent of al-Qaida´s presence in the kingdom.
Interior Minister Prince Nayef said most of the suspects "received
their military training in al-Qaida camps in Afghanistan," but
acknowledged "a small number perhaps were trained on farms and the
like inside the country." His comments were carried in an interview
published Tuesday in the London-based pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat.
More than 200 suspects have been reported arrested and more than a
dozen killed in police shootouts in 13 raids throughout the kingdom
since May 12 suicide bombings in Riyadh. That attack, which killed 25
Saudis and Westerners and nine attackers, was blamed on al-Qaida.
The raids followed repeated calls by the U.S. government for Saudi
Arabia to do more to curb Islamic militancy after the Sept. 11 terror
U.S. officials said they were aware of some al-Qaida training
activity in Saudi Arabia but said it was small-scale and clandestine
in nature. It does not approach the large camps bin Laden operated in
Afghanistan, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
In another interview published Tuesday in the London-based Al-Hayat,
Nayef said Saudi Arabia will not extradite any Saudi terror suspects
Fifteen of the 19 Sept. 11 hijackers were Saudis. Bin Laden also was
born in Saudi Arabia to a prominent family, although the kingdom
revoked his citizenship in 1994.
Analysts said bin Laden´s call to arms is easily heeded in Saudi
"Al-Qaida has infiltrated Saudi Arabia more than we imagined because
extremist ideas, like those of bin Laden, have roots here," said
Qenan al-Ghamdi, a columnist and former editor-in-chief of al-Watan
"When bin Laden calls for jihad or recruits, his ideas find many
takers here, because these same extremist ideas have a base here and
are widespread in the kingdom," he added. "We need to admit this.
These are not unique cases."
Al-Ghamdi said he believes militants carry out weapons training in
isolated places in Saudi Arabia, but that full-fledged training camps
do not exist here.
Mishari al-Zaidi, who writes on Islamic affairs for Asharq al-Awsat
"They choose farms and other far away places to be away from the eyes
of the security forces. But these are not training camps like in
Afghanistan where they take courses in how to use weapons. They are
mainly somewhere to lie low, hide their weapons, and possibly do some
light training," al-Zaidi said.
A U.S. Congress report released last week on the intelligence
failures before the Sept. 11 attacks also accused Saudi Arabia of not
doing enough to counter terrorism.
On Tuesday, Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal called
suggestions of such links "an outrage to any sense of fairness" and
said his country had been "wrongfully and morbidly accused of
complicity in the attacks."
"Twenty-eight blank pages are now considered substantial evidence to
proclaim the guilt of a country that has been a true friend and
partner of the United States for over 60 years," said al-Faisal, in
Washington for talks with Bush.
The Saudi government has complained it cannot respond to a report it
cannot see and has sought declassification of part of the report. But
Bush refused Tuesday, saying that "would help the enemy" by revealing
intelligence sources and methods.
Later, Saud said his government has agreed to a U.S. request to
question Omar Bayoumi, a Saudi official who befriended two of the
Sept. 11 hijackers. He said earlier U.S. questioning of Bayoumi
failed to find a link to the attacks.
In the newspaper comments, Nayef said some of those detained in raids
were members of al-Qaida.
"We have confirmed that they definitely belong to al-Qaida and bin
Laden and they will be tried on this basis when investigations are
over," Nayef said.
Nayef visited the al-Qassim area, 220 miles northwest of Riyadh,
where six suspected militants were killed and four arrested in a
Saudi police raid of a farm on Monday.
Nayef said Saudi security had evidence the militants were "connected
to the terrorists who were arrested in Mecca" last month.
(© 2003 The Associated Press 07/29/03)
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