Voice from the Commonwealth Commentary, World Views and Occasional Rants from a small 'l' libertarian in Massachussetts
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Based on what Jane's is reporting the Saudi Princes must be pretty edgy about US troops leaving.
The insistent claim of traditionally secretive Saudi authorities that a series of violent incidents across the Kingdom in recent months was the work of criminal gangs is becoming extremely threadbare.
With the assassination of a district police chief in the northern province of al-Jawf, a hotbed of Islamic opposition to the monarchy, on 20 April it seems to be increasingly clear that the violence is politically motivated, in all likelihood by supporters of Osama bin Laden.
Diplomats in Riyadh link the violence to mounting anti-Western hostility in the kingdom, the birthplace of Islam. This has been intensified by the US-led invasion of Iraq and the Arab world's inability to prevent it. Saudi leaders are being forced to admit that they face a growing challenge to their authority, one they have sought desperately to deny since a car bombing in Riyadh in which seven foreigners, five of them US citizens training the National Guard, were killed in 1995. The London-based Saudi opposition group, the Movement for Islamic Reform in Arabia, has reported that Islamic militants have opted for armed confrontation with the monarchy, following "at least nine armed clashes in the last six or seven months" authorised by fatwas (religious decrees) issued by Muslim clerics.
Lieut Col Hammud Ali al-Rabih, chief of police in the town of Skaka, was shot dead as he drove home on 20 April. He is the fourth official to have been assassinated in al-Jawf in eight months.
Only two people have so far been arrested in connection with these attacks, but the authorities have yet to provide conclusive evidence to substantiate their version of events. In April 2002, the Saudi Army deployed as many as 8,000 soldiers around the town of Tabuk. Officials cited potential threats from Israel. But the deployment followed anti-US riots in Skaka. Bin Laden lived there in the late 1960s after his father died in a helicopter crash and Mohammed Sadiq Odeh, arrested for the bombings of the US embassies in Nairobi and Dar es-Salaam in 1998, had also lived in Skaka and Tabuk.
There were unconfirmed reports that Al-Qaeda might have arms dumps and hideouts in the rugged Wadi Rum, which runs from southern Jordan into northwestern Saudi Arabia, in 2001. Although, as far as is known, no caches have been uncovered in the region, Al-Qaeda clearly seems to have considerable support there.
The Saudi leadership, whose relations with the USA have undergone immense strain since the carnage of 11 September wrought by 15 Saudis and three other Arabs, have in recent weeks admitted that they have arrested hundreds of Al-Qaeda suspects and have referred 90 "proven to have joined the network to court". But only a few weeks ago, Prince Nayef, the powerful interior minister, publicly clung to the increasingly tattered fiction that there were "no terror networks" in the Kingdom, only "small groups of misguided young people".
From "No al Qaeda here" to 90 in the past few weeks, eh? Sounds like some desperate house-cleaning before we leave them to the wolves in their midst.
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