Report: Al Qaida targets foreign workers in Saudi Arabia

Monday, December 29, 2003

Al Qaida has launched a campaign to drive away millions of foreign laborers in an attempt to destroy the regime in Saudi Arabia.

A report by the Washington-based Jamestown Foundation said Al Qaida attacks on housing compounds in Riyad have been aimed to intimidate and drive away an estimated four million foreign workers from the kingdom. The report said Al Qaida has also targeted financial institutions that own or have a stake in Saudi Arabia.

"The current campaign seems to be targeting the estimated four million foreign workers in the country, a number that includes 30,000 British and 30,000 American workers," the report said. "In addition, at least 10,000 non-uniform U.S. troops remain in the kingdom."

In November, Al Qaida blew up the British-based HSBC Bank in Istanbul, Turkey. HSBC owns 40 percent of the Saudi-British Bank, Middle East Newsline reported.

Authored by John Daly, an adjunct scholar at the Washington-based Middle East Institute, the report did not rule out that Al Qaida's next step would be to target Saudi Arabia's oil sector. Oil revenues account for up to 95 percent of Saudi export earnings and up to 80 percent of state revenues. The kingdom is expected to earn $70 billion in export revenues in 2003.

"There are already signs that Al Qaida is considering the country's petrochemical complexes; a joint CIA-Saudi effort in the summer of 2002 broke up a plot targeting Ras Tanura, and Saudi security arrested five men," the report said. "Even Ali Al Naimi, Saudi Aramco chairman and Minister of Petroleum and Natural Resources, has acknowledged the vulnerability of the oil infrastructure, admitting that, 'terminals and power systems could be a problem.'"

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia has acknowledged that it has failed to stop financing to Al Qaida. Saudi security sources said Al Qaida has managed to collect millions of dollars from contributions collected by state-owned mosques.

Interior Ministry spokesman Saud Al Musaibih said several of the Al Qaida suspects captured over the last month were found to have possessed large amounts of cash. Al Musaibih said the cash came from charity boxes places in mosques in violation of a recent Saudi law.

"During the investigations with the terrorists who were caught, it became clear that some of them carried large quantities of money, and its sources were charity boxes that did not comply with official standards and regulations," Al Musaibh said. "The terrorists were collecting the money from those boxes that were being put in mosques, colleges, schools and markets and carried pictures of war victims."

The sources said Al Qaida funds have been used to recruit operatives and purchase weapons and explosives for attacks in Saudi Arabia. Reports from Saudi Arabia assert that authorities have captured 100 surface-to-air missiles smuggled from Yemen to the kingdom.

"We have no information about the seizure of any weapons while being smuggled into the kingdom," Maj. Gen. Saleh Al Sentali, head of the Saudi border guards in Jizan, told Saudi media. "If there had been a weapons seizure of this magnitude, we would have been notified immediately."

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