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Arrested Saudi cell targeted preachers who warned against violence – paper

BBC Monitoring

Text of report by Saudi-owned leading pan-Arab daily Al-Sharq al-Awsat website on 30 November

[Report by Mishari al-Thayidi: "Saudi Security Source Tells Al-Sharq al-Awsat: Terrorists Targeted Preachers who Warned Against Them at Private Gatherings, Through Lessons at Mosques; Al-Qa'idah Does Not Pay Too Much Attention to Those who Appear in Media Outlets, Criticize It"]

The [terrorist] cells that the Saudi security services uncovered a couple of days ago when they arrested 208 persons perhaps represent the largest group captured in terms of the number of cells and number of members since April 2007, when it was announced that a group of active cells that included 172 members and that worked for Al-Qa'idah were captured.

The recently captured cells were operating in the fields of media support, financing, and recruitment. Some of these cells were also in charge of carrying out assassinations against scholars and policemen, according to the Saudi Interior Ministry's recent statement. The statement indicates that some of these cells were pl! anning to strike at an oil target, while others were concerned with the recruitment of Saudi youth then sending them to "disturbed regions." The statement adds: "This is in addition to some other cells, such as the Medina cell, which focused on reactivating Al-Qa'idah's media activity on the Internet, now that this activity has diminished as a result of the absence of the Sawt al-Jihad [the voice of jihad] magazine, Al-Qa'idah's most prominent mouthpiece. Abd-al-Aziz al-Muqrin, Faysal al-Dakhil, and Sa'ud al-Quttayni, who were successive leaders of the Saudi wing of the Al-Qa'idah Organization, wrote for this magazine."

A Saudi security source told Al-Sharq al-Awsat that "this operation has been underway for about five months." He added that "this operation was announced at this particular time now that the final picture of this most recent Al-Qa'idah portrait has been completed." He said that "some of the targeted clerics are first line clerics," in a possible refere! nce to the members of the Saudi Higher Ulema Council, the highest reli gious body in the country.

The source said: "Among the goals of the assassination cell, which comprised 22 men, was to target preachers and shaykhs who do not often appear in media outlets, but play a significant role in warning against Al-Qa'idah in general and Usamah Bin-Ladin in particular at their private gatherings, among their partisans, and through the lessons they give at mosques." He added: "We pursued the approach of communicating with these influential preachers in order to cancel any doubt they may have by providing them with whatever information is available to us confirming Usamah Bin-Ladin's and Al-Qa'idah's real cooperation with other states and outside forces against the kingdom, thus proving that the Al-Qa'idah's jihadist call is a false call." He said that "revealing such information to these preachers has had a great effect in terms of getting them to learn about the true goals of this terrorist organization, thus encouraging them to warn against it! ."

The security source also said: "Al-Qa'idah might not pay too much attention to those who appear in media outlets and publicly criticize it and expose its actions. On the contrary, Al-Qa'idah might use these appearances and say that these people are fighting Islam, either because they are scholars affiliated with the ruler, as they may claim, or because they are seculars, as they may say." He added: "However, Al-Qa'idah is greatly disturbed by the warnings that preachers emit on their own at their gatherings and through the lessons they give to their students, due to the deep communication that exists between these preachers and the youth."

In the meantime, the Saudi source revealed that "the situation in Iraq is being clearly exploited by some of the recruiters of Saudi youth in an effort to arouse these young men's zeal to fight and commit suicide under the cover of jihad." He added: "However, when these recruiters fill the minds of the youth with the ideolo! gy of fighting and takfir [holding other Muslims to be infidels], the youth become accustomed to the idea of fighting. Accordingly, if they do not get the chance to leave for Iraq, they operate in Saudi Arabia based on the notion that jihad is the same everywhere, whether it is performed here or there." He said that "unfortunately, these people are exploiting the concept of jihad in a distorted way." He noted that "all recruiters are non-Saudis."

Concerning their recruitment methods, the source gave as an example the story of the Iraqi girl who was said to have been brutally raped by the occupation. He said that "it later transpired that the story was fabricated for provocation purposes and in an effort to arouse emotions."

As for the issue of financing Al-Qa'idah and terrorism, the source said that "funds are being provided by some Saudis, some of who operate under the cover of real estate projects, as well as other covers." He added: "Regretfully enough, some of these financers are deceivers and they do not appear to be financing! Al-Qa'idah. However, this is what actually happened." The security source gave as an example a person who is currently in detention and who was operating under the cover of offering aid to the resistance in Iraq. He collected money from homes on the pretext that this money was for the Iraqis, while it was actually given to other parties. He stressed that "pursuing Al-Qa'idah is a tough job." He attributed this in the first place to "the state of chaos in the region, particularly in Iraq and Afghanistan, and perhaps in Lebanon." He said that "this disturbed situation on the regional level is a cause for recruitment and provocation."

Source: Al-Sharq al-Awsat website, London, in Arabic 30 Nov 07



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