Local Al-Qaed Leader Among 5 Killed in Riyadh

Riyadh, 28 Feb. (AKI) – The leader of an al-Qaeda terrorist cell in Saudi Arabia mentioned in a government most-wanted list of 36 Islamic militants was among the five terrorists killed by security forces in the capital Riyadh on Monday, satellite television al-Arabiya reported on Tuesday. Saudi officials have linked the Islamic militants killed on Monday with the failed suicide attack against the massive oil processing plant at Abqaiq on Friday. According to al-Arabiya, one of Saudi Arabia’s most-wanted terrorists Fahd al-Jaiwar was among the five men killed by officials during a police operation in the eastern suburb of Riyadh.

Al-Jawair, 35, was among the mujahadeen fighting Soviet troops in Afghanistan in the 1980s. [UPDATE: The Saudi Ministry of the Interior identifies Al-Juwair as #2 on their "most wanted" list.]

According to Bahghdad-television Al Iraqiya, Saudi Arabia’s Abdallah Salah al Harbi, another terrorist pursued by Saudi security forces, has been arrested at a road block in Iraq.

AKI, an Italian news agency, has the latest on the Saudi government’s anti-terror actions, noting that another of the “most-wanted” has been killed. This brings to three the number of those killed in the past few days. In another piece yesterday, they offer some interesting analysis of the Abqaiq attack, noting that each suicide attack means one less of the terrorists. As these seem to be among the leadership of Al-Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula, the self-inflicted damage to the organization is considerable.

The Washington Post‘s story on the counter-terror action is here. And The New York Times story provides the names of the terrorists who have been killed:

Fahd al-Juweir, Jaffal al-Shammari, Ibrahim al-Muteir and Abdullah al-Shammari. The fifth man was yet to be identified. An Interior Ministry spokesman said the name of a sixth man who was arrested on Monday would not be released.

Khaleej Times from the UAE, identifies the Saudi captured in Iraq and believed to have been involved in the Abqaiq attack as Abdallah Salah al-Harbi.

The CBS TV’s story about the Riyadh shoot-out doesn’t add much information, but does have some good photos of both Riyadh and the Abqaiq facility.


February:28:2006 - 11:08 | Comments & Trackbacks (4) | Permalink

Best Seller Mystery at Book Fair

Riyadh, 28 Feb. (AKI) – The reported disappearance of all the copies of a controversial best-seller from the stands has caused a stir at the Riyadh Book Fair . Among visitors to the trade fair, there are persistent rumours that all the available copies of the novel “Girls of Riyadh”, which is being likened to the female-cast American tv drama “Sex and the City”, have been purchased by a mysterious woman. The rumours, denied by the publishing house, have been fuelled by a surprise appearance of the author, young Saudi woman Rajaa al-Sanie, at the fair.

The Italian news agency AKI reports on the strange goings-on at the annual Riyadh Book Fair concerning Girls of Riyadh. Where the books bought up by the author? By someone who wanted to do his/her own distribution? Or perhaps by the government? [My original post on the book.]

The article notes that the first two editions of the book had been banned in the KSA, but was widely available through the internet or by travelers to other countries. But the Riyadh Book Fair is very much a government-sponsored event, so there appears to be at least some lessening of the ban. Interesting to note that the book is being translated into English!

I’ll get a copy as soon as it’s available, but I suspect it’ll be about as thrilling as Peyton Place today. That book sure raised a ruckus when it first was published in the US, though…

[UPDATE: Asharq Alawsat newspaper has a lengthier piece on this. Their take, apparently, is that the Ministries of Culture and Information had the book pulled. That certainly could be.]


February:28:2006 - 11:06 | Comments & Trackbacks (2) | Permalink

Wives in Limbo Seek Court Help

RIYADH, 28 February 2006 — Consider it a Saudi version of a pre-nuptial agreement. More and more often, Saudi women are establishing their legal rights to file for divorce prior to tying the knot. What is even stranger is the reason behind it, which is unusual in Saudi society. We are living in a society that does not discuss such things, let alone ask for them, Al-Riyadh reported.

A marriage contract that includes a clause or clauses setting out circumstances under which a woman can divorce her husband is something new. If it is signed and witnessed before the marriage, both parties are bound by it and it gives the woman a right to divorce her husband if she chooses. At present many women have been left by their husbands — not divorced but simply deserted. In such cases, the woman is theoretically still married but in fact she is not. She is in a kind of limbo and many women find themselves in this limbo for many years.

Very interesting staff-written piece in the Arab News! It notes that Saudi women who are abandoned by their husbands–not divorced, simply abandoned–are truly up the creek. Women who are abused by their husbands often have problems getting a divorce as courts frequently insist on witnesses–something not common in domestic violence.

The article offers several ideas, including pre-nuptual agreements, to help women protect themselves against unexpected dangers from their husbands. Read the whole thing.


February:27:2006 - 23:13 | Comments Off | Permalink

[ UPDATE: The Arab News has its own reporting on the latest action. It notes that several Pakistanis were killed when their vehicle, leaving the area that was under seige, failed to slow for a checkpoint. That might lend some understanding to what happens at checkpoints in Iraq from time to time.]

Saudi Forces Kill Five Terror Suspects

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates, AP – Saudi security forces on Monday shot dead five suspected terrorists believed to be involved in a foiled attack on the world’s biggest oil processing complex, the Saudi Interior Ministry said. A sixth suspect was arrested.

The shootings came after security forces raided two houses in the Saudi capital of Riyadh that had been under surveillance, Lt. Gen. Mansour al-Turki, chief spokesman for the ministry. The suspects were killed during a shootout, the ministry said in a statement.

This Asharq Alawsat report says that Saudi security authorities believe the group may be linked to the attack on the Abqaiq oil facilities last week. It also notes that among the terrorists killed in the attack on Abqaiq were on the latest “most wanted” list.

The Italian news agency AKI reports this story as well. This report includes speculation that the attack may have been related to the recent jailbreak in Yemen, with some of those who escaped planning the attack. It also warns that Saudi counter-terror efforts could, in the short term, lead to more attacks as the groups feel the pressure. On the other hand, if the pressure is great enough, it may have degraded the terrorist organization further.

Another AKI piece gives details about the shootout in Riyadh.

The New York Times carries a Reuters article that has more details on the attack.

Security Watchtower blog, in commenting on this story, also provides a good graphic of Saudi success in dealing with its “most wanted” list. It’s worth taking a look.


February:27:2006 - 22:38 | Comments & Trackbacks (1) | Permalink

Al Qaeda Threatens to Hit More Saudi Sites
DONNA ABU NASR

MANAMA, Bahrain (AP) — al Qaeda suicide bombers will attack more Saudi oil facilities, the terror group purportedly threatened Saturday in an Internet statement that claimed responsibility for the foiled attack on the Abiqaiq plant in eastern Saudi Arabia.

Two suicide bombers tried to drive cars packed with explosives into Abiqaiq, the world’s largest oil processing facility, on Friday afternoon, but security guards opened fire and the vehicles exploded outside the gates, killing the bombers and fatally wounding two guards.

The Washington Post runs this Associated Press story by the reliable Donna Abu Nasr, which gives details of the attack. She says that there were two attackers (both killed) and two vehicles, and that the two Saudi security guards who were injured had later died of their wounds.

She also notes that US Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez is in Riyadh today and that he was reassured by the Saudi government that the attack would not affect oil flows.

Abu Nasr describes a statement appearing on a jihadi website claiming that the attack was the responsibility of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and that it was “part of a series of operations that al Qaeda is carrying out against the crusaders and the Jews to stop their plundering of Muslim wealth.” This, of course, is very much within the Usama Bin Laden discourse.


February:25:2006 - 09:35 | Comments Off | Permalink

Attack on Abqaiq Oil Facility Foiled

DHAHRAN, 25 February 2006 — The Kingdom yesterday foiled a terrorist attack on its largest oil processing facility at Abqaiq in the Eastern Province.

This is the Arab News‘ story reporting the attack on ARAMCO’s oil facility at Abqaiq. Written several hours after the attack, it helps clear the air of some of the ambiguous early reporting.

There were two cars involved, not three, for instance.

The story notes that security sources say it’s still too early to identify the attackers. Given that little remains of them, it will probably depend on DNA analysis.

It quotes a British security analyst who says,

that while it was disturbing that militants could still take a plot to such an advanced stage, the operation was “reckless” from a strategic point of view in Al-Qaeda’s efforts to win over the public opinion because oil is the lifeline of the Saudi economy.

“It shows that as the group fragmented under the relentless pressure of the security crackdown, there has been evident loss of strategic and tactical skill,” he said. “Obviously it is disturbing that another attack happened but the fact that it was thwarted shows that Saudi Arabia’s efforts to take security seriously have borne some fruit.”

An article from The Saudi Gazette, datelined Dammam, has some eye-witness reporting that’s of interest. That story also mentions an apparently unrelated event: the arrests outside Riyadh on Thursday of three suspects with machine guns.

A further item of note in the piece talks about how teachers and students at a Quran school left their classes to find CDs of jihadist materials on their windshields. The materials were turned over to security personnel and an investigation launched.


February:24:2006 - 20:53 | Comments & Trackbacks (8) | Permalink

A Matter of National Security
Tariq A. Al-Maeena, close_encounters@gawab.com

Opposition by US senators and congressmen to the proposed managing of some major ports in the US by the DP World, a UAE company, is steadily growing. And not withstanding some of the naivete shown by these lawmakers in comprehending their Middle East geography and history well, cries of “national security” and “9/11” are rising.

Tareq Al-Maeena, not one to pass up an opportunity to slap the US, actually has a pretty good perception about what going on in the flap over Dubai Ports World.

He suggests that if you’re going to bash Arabs, at least be consistent about it:

Citing concerns that two of the 9/11 hijackers came from the UAE is in itself moronic. Were the aircraft that crashed into the WTC from the UAE? Didn’t they take off from US airports? Weren’t they tracked by US radar? Shouldn’t the US block the entry of all Arab airlines flying into the USA, for fear that they may be carrying weapons of mass destruction? Or deny all Arabs entry into the country because the hijackers represented some of the Arab countries?

Should all cargo-bound containers from the Middle East be banned? All in the interest of national security?

Yes, the US needs to be concerned about its national security. That’s a given. But it also needs to be realistic in its expectations.

From nativist and isolationist calls for the “Americanization of US ports!” to those who can’t see an Arab or a Muslim without seeing a terrorist, the uproar over DPW’s taking over the operations of P&O–also a foreign company–is pathetic.


February:24:2006 - 20:45 | Comments Off | Permalink

[UPDATE: The BBC's latest report, by Frank Gardner, who was shot by Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninula a couple of years back has some useful maps, but not a lot of additional information. The number of vehicles involved, though, seems to be in some dispute. More as it becomes available.]

Oil refinery attack foiled, Saudis say
Vehicles reportedly were packed with explosives; pipeline fire started

•RIYADH, Saudi Arabia – Suicide bombers tried but failed to storm a major oil refinery in Saudi Arabia on Friday, according to officials and TV reports.

“Security forces foiled an attempted suicide attack at the Abqaiq refinery using at least two cars,” a security official told Reuters.

Al-Arabiya television said Saudi forces killed the attackers…

According to MSNBC, the Saudi government foiled an attack on oil facilities at Abqaiq, “the worlds most important oil facility,” in the words of one oil consultant.

Al-Arabya TV–Saudi owned, Dubai-based satellite TV channel–reports that one (according to AFP, two) (and now, according to Reuters, all three) of the three vehicles used in the assault exploded as it was fired upon by Saudi security forces. There are no reports that the operations of the facilities was affected, however.

This is the first–hopefully, the last–attack on Saudi oil facilities themselves. In 2004, there were several attacks, both in the Eastern Province and in the Hijaz, on oil facility offices and support facilities. Those attacks led to the deaths of foreigners, including Americans.

It think it’s a good sign that the attack was thwarted about a mile away from the oil facilities, by Saudi security forces. It indicates that they’re doing their jobs. It’d be better, of course, if the attacks had been stopped while they were still being planned. We have to see if any of the attackers were captured and might prove sources for additional intelligence information.

[UPDATE: For those who read Arabic, Al-Arabiya's reports can be found here.]

[UPDATE: Take a look, too, at the Terrorism Unveiled blog for a quick analysis.]


February:24:2006 - 12:37 | Comments Off | Permalink

Women lose in polls for Saudi chamber

DUBAI (AP) — Voters rejected all six women candidates in a chamber of commerce election in eastern Saudi Arabia, according to preliminary results released yesterday.

The polls for the Eastern Province Chamber of Commerce and Industry were only the second time in Saudi history that women have run for elected office. Women and men are strictly segregated in the conservative kingdom, and women were not allowed to vote in the country’s first nationwide municipal polls last year.

“We lost, but we’re not that unhappy about it,” one of the female candidates, Samia Al Edrisi, told AP in a phone interview from Dammam.

Well, part of elections is that there are loses are well as winners. Based on the tally of votes, it appears that the female candidates tolled poorly, unlike their counterparts in Jeddah.


February:24:2006 - 11:41 | Comments & Trackbacks (4) | Permalink

As predicted in an earlier post, Secretary Rice is finding it difficult to get Saudi Arabia (or Egypt) to sign on to US efforts to financially isolate Hamas. Both The New York Times and The Washington Post, among others, have the details. Asharq Alawsat carries an AP story that covers the essentials.

As I suggested, the problem comes in how the US and the Saudis view Hamas. As Rice puts it,

“Different countries will have different modalities on how to deal with this,” Rice said at a news conference with Saud. “For the United States, Hamas is a terrorist organization. We cannot give funding to a terrorist organization. It’s really that simple.”

The Saudis, on the other hand, cannot find a way to distinguish the different parts of Hamas, those that truly are terrorists and those that do important social work. As Saud Al-Faisal puts it,

We wish not to link the international aid to the Palestinian people to considerations other than their dire humanitarian needs.

The US argues about the fungibility of money: money given to an organization to do good works can be either moved to other accounts or simply because costs in one account are now covered, other money is free to be used nefariously. The US, after its own long period of dithering, has finally decided that because they are inseperable, all money flows into the organization should be stopped.

The Saudis argue that while that may work to hinder terrorist activities, it does so at tremendous cost to the Palestinian people. With the US withdrawing funds, with Israel withholding tax payouts, and the US pressuring other countries to reduce payments, the Palestinians are being unjustly punished.

Out of curiousity, I wonder how the US sees its contributions to Egypt–over $1 billion per year? That money, too, is fungible. Egypt, as the Saudis, has said that Hamas should be pressured to change its ways, not smothered. It, too, intends to continue its assistance to the Palestinians…


February:23:2006 - 08:46 | Comments & Trackbacks (3) | Permalink

EPCCI Vote Closes With 38 Percent Turnout
Huda Al-Shayeb, Arab News

DAMMAM, 23 February 2006 — After five days of voting, the Eastern Province Chamber of Commerce & Industry (EPCCI) closed its election boxes yesterday.
The turnout for the poll was estimated at 4,200 out of 11,000 eligible voters, or just over 38 percent. Vote counting went on late into the night.

Another early article notes that the elections for the Eastern Province Chamber of Commerce & Industry were concluded, but votes are not yet counted. Not a lot of news here, but one terrific turn of phrase!

“Religious tropisms,” we are informed, played a large role in the elections. This means, of course, that the Shi’a seemed to be tending to support Shi’a candidates and the Sunnis, Sunni candidates. This phrase will be useful in many future stories, as with Iraq’s struggle to create a viable political system.


February:23:2006 - 08:12 | Comments Off | Permalink

Editorial: Positive Stand

THE attempt by a group of US Congressman to block the takeover of six US ports by an Arab company is wrong. In vowing that he will veto any legislation that stops this purely commercial transaction, President Bush is showing wisdom…

Some Democratic senators have joined Sen. Bill Frist, Republican leader in the Senate, in a move to legislate against the deal on grounds of national security. One of their concerns is that two of the perpetrators of 9/11 crimes were UAE citizens. They fear that Arab management of US ports might offer an opportunity for international terrorists to attack the US.

Unfortunately, this is bigoted nonsense that once again raises the deeply objectionable notion that all Muslims are terrorists. Leaving aside the fact that any attempt to stop the free movement of investment capital would probably run afoul of WTO rules, this reaction to the takeover is not only irrational but also lacks sense. Sen. Frist and his colleagues seem oblivious to the fact that British legislators have voiced no such objection to the fact that some UK ports will also be owned and run by DPW. Nor have there been any protests from authorities in China, Hong Kong, South Korea, India, Australia, Germany, Venezuela and the Dominican Republic — all countries in which DPW operates.

Not surprisingly, the Saudi media comes out in support of Pres. Bush and his threat to veto any legislation seeking to block Dubai from taking over from the British P&O company management of certain port facilities in the US. This Arab News editorial sees the uproar as an example of American xenophobia, if not outright Islamophobia.

In addition to the editorial, there’s also a piece from the paper’s US correspondent: Bush Backs DPW in Row Over Deal.


February:22:2006 - 23:58 | Comments Off | Permalink
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