Oil-Rich Gulf States Placed on Al Qaeda’s Front Burner (DEBKAfile) Special Report 02/01/05 3:08 PM (GMT+02:00)
In a belated iron clampdown, Kuwait’s security forces have waged
four bloody gun battles with al Qaeda gangs in less than a month.
Oman has rounded up several hundred “Islamists” in the same period.
Over the weekend, Jordan and Saudi Arabia went on terror alert to
hunt down a group calling itself “Returnees from Fallujah” which was
lurking in the Jordanian-Saudi border area ready to strike.
From back stage of al Qaeda´s Iraq and Saudi theaters, the Gulf
emirates have been promoted to al Qaeda’s prime target for Islamist
terror on a par with Jordan and Saudi Arabia. Recent al Qaeda
publications appearing in Saudi Arabia register dissatisfaction with
the organization’s over-involvement in Iraq and urge the relocation
of resources for a more even spread of armed violence across the
Sunday, January 30, Iraq’s election-day, a Kuwaiti police raid of
two buildings in the Salimiya neighborhood of the capital met with
fierce resistance from an al Qaeda band preparing an attack.
Witnesses reported the block was sealed off by police vehicles while
a helicopter hovered overhead. The clash ended with at least 5 dead,
among them a policemen and a passerby.
Monday, January 31, the day after Iraq celebrated the defeat of
terrorist attempts to disrupt its elections, Kuwait forces fought a
nine-hour battle in their capital, killing four gunmen and capturing
six, including the group’s spiritual leader Amer Khalif al-Enezi, a
Saudi. In all four clashes, three security officers and eight
suspects, including two Saudis, were killed.
It is not over. The US, British and French embassies have advised
their nationals to avoid parts of Kuwait City and warn of continuing
DEBKAfile’s counter-terror sources report that the 50 terrorists
taken captive include 15 Saudis, most of whom infiltrated Kuwait
from Iraq, a handful from Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province oil region
and 8 Yemeni al Qaeda adherents
The Saudi and Yemeni captives disclosed under questioning that they
had reached emirate from the Iraqi towns of Fallujah and Ramadi.
They were primed for action with precise instructions, the names and
telephone numbers of contacts in Kuwait, addresses of weapons caches
for operations, safe houses and escape routes.
Those interrogations brought to light three changes in al Qaeda’s
operational mode and agenda:
One, in recent weeks, Kuwait (1 million population doubled by
foreign expatriates) has begun to be perceived by al Qaeda and Iraqi
terrorists not merely as a transit point for attacks in other
places, but as a central target location in its own right by virtue
of its oil installations and the 25,000 US troops based there.
Two, jihadist terrorists are pouring into the emirate in large
numbers from Iraq and eastern Saudi Arabia.
Three, the assumption that these gunmen arrived simply because they
were put to flight by clampdowns in Saudi Arabia and Iraq is refuted
by the data obtained in interrogations of captives, documents, arms
caches and newly-intercepted messages. They all paint the picture of
a well-planned, highly professional, large-scale paramilitary
organization that was set up in the autumn of 2004 for a protracted
campaign – mainly against Arab Gulf oil resources and US bases.
Kuwaiti security officials were quite bowled over by the extent and
diversity of the arms stores they tracked down and the clever way
they were concealed and disguised in unexpected locations. A stock
of 700 fragmentation and stun grenades was uncovered behind the
fence of a public children’s playground. Fake gas, water and power
utility boxes on city streets concealed automatic submachine guns,
rocket-propelled grenades, shoulder-held anti-tank missiles and
large quantities of explosives. Kuwait authorities were forced to
admit that some local agency in the emirate must have been busy for
weeks, undetected by US or Kuwaiti intelligence, hiring professional
builders to install realistic storage facilities on main streets.
They are also disturbed by the heavy resistance and hail of grenades
that awaited the security forces in all four raids. In none did the
terrorists surrender without a fight.
As Kuwait plunges into its most extensive search-and-probe ever to
root out the terrorist presence and its tentacles, Oman (2.9
million) too is in the grip of a deep al Qaeda penetration. Here the
armed forces are also infected. Two weeks ago, a chance road
accident revealed a truck hauling a large consignment of weapons for
terrorist operations between hiding places. Omani authorities
admitted to a “religious extremist” plot to disrupt the Muscat
cultural festival, but insisted “they are not violent extremists”
and only 30 were arrested. According to most other sources, the
number was at least 300.
Friday, January 28, DEBKAfile’s counter-terror sources revealed a
state of emergency had been declared in Jordan; King Abdullah, his
family and court, were moved out of their Amman palace to a secure
place outside the capital. Royal vehicles were given ordinary number
plates and security was stepped up around government offices and
Jordanian intelligence – JID – was acting on information that a
group of al Qaeda fighters from Fallujah who had dubbed
themselves “The Fallujah Returnees” had infiltrated the kingdom
under the lead of a Jordanian aide of Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi called
Mohammed Shalabi. The group was believed to be hiding in the south
somewhere between Karak east of the Dead Sea and the Saudi frontier.
Jordan’s Saudi neighbors also went on the alert, suspecting the band
would be heading for the royal military town of Tabuk. (Copyright ©
2005 DEBKAfile 02/01/05)
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