Ordinary Saudis resent the
presence of US forces in their
country

A Saudi Islamist group sympathetic to Osama Bin Laden's Al Qaeda network called Sunday for revenge attacks on US interests following a huge arms seizure from Islamic activists in Riyadh last week.

 

A statement carried on the alsaha.net website signed by the ‘Mujahedeen in the Arabian Peninsula’ urged readers to "strike and destroy American interests on land, at sea and in the air".

 

"It is absolutely necessary that we all be united in the war against the aggressors and that we pursue them all over the world," said the group, adding that the munitions were "intended to kill the Crusaders, who are attacking our brothers in Palestine, Afghanistan and Iraq."

  

The statement is the latest instalment in a debate that has flared up in Saudi Arabia since last Tuesday’s raid and centres on the presence of US forces in the country and the legitimacy of the monarchy, says London-based Saudi dissident Saad al-Faqih.

 

“It’s the first time ever in Saudi Arabia that the regime does not have a monopoly on statements and there is no-one to answer to the pronouncements they make."

 

Al Faqih says that three Islamic scholars in hiding – Ali Al Khubayr, Nasir Al Fahad, Ahmed Al Khalidi – made a declaration calling on Saudis to not cooperate with the government and give information on the 19 “but to support and protect them and give them shelter.”

 

Crown Prince Abdullah has
sought to limit the US role in the
kingdom's affairs

According to Al Faqih, this statement was followed up when one of the wanted men, Ali al-Ghandi, issued a one-page declaration in which he rejected the Saudi government and said that he and the other 18 are fighting ‘crusaders’ and do not intend to kill Muslims. He added that he was proud to have been involved in the battle of Tora Bora and would not hand himself over to US-aligned forces.

 

The ‘Mujahedeen in the Arabian Peninsula’ is not a movement, rather a disparate group of people who support the ending of the US military presence in the Islamic world adds Al Faqih.

 

“They aim to fight non-Muslim forces inside Saudi Arabia,” he says.

 

Travel advisory

 

Even before last week's raid on a 'Mujahedeen' hideout which netted 55 hand grenades, 377 kilogrammes (829 pounds) of explosive and 2,545 bullets of different calibres, the US State Department had issued an advisory warning Americans against all non-essential travel to Saudi Arabia.

 

The move followed the shooting of an American working at a naval base in the east of the kingdom on 1 May, just a day after the State Department warned that "terrorist groups may be in the final phases of planning terrorist attacks on American interests in Saudi Arabia."

 

Al Faqih says there is "no question that the US withdrawal from Saudi Arabia will not affect the possibility that Al Qaeda or the Mujahedeen target Americans because of America's post-11 September behaviour and the US statement that they reserve the right to go back into Saudi whenever they deem it necessary."

 

"Saudi Arabia is not only dangerous to Americans but to the Saudi regime itself. The red line on targeting members of the Saudi regime is no longer there and Bin Laden has now given a green light to target senior members of the Saudi regime."

 

The Mujahedeen statement lashed out at the Saudi authorities, accusing them of "taking the side of the aggressors" and demanding that Muslims "spill the blood" of Saudi officials.

 

"The publication of their photographs ... is just another link in the chain of (Saudi government) collaboration with the accursed Crusaders," it said.

 

Saudi Interior Minister Prince Naif Ibn Abdelaziz said all 19 suspects being sought after last week's raid - 17 Saudis, a Yemeni and an Iraqi of joint Kuwaiti-Canadian citizenship - were "known agents of Al Qaeda."

 

Their names and pictures were carried by all Saudi dailies with an appeal for information.