Saudi security no match for Al Qaida

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

ABU DHABI Saudi Arabia's private security companies acknowledge that they are ill-equipped to face Al Qaida attacks.

Saudi contractors as well as security guards said they have not been equipped or trained to protect Western compounds against Islamic insurgency attacks. So far, Saudi guards have either fled or died in Al Qaida attacks on Western offices and housing compounds.

Saudi contractors have been recruiting security guards amid Al Qaida's campaign against the royal family and Western presence, Middle East Newsline reported. But executives as well as the guards themselves asserted that the security personnel supervised by the Interior Ministry were not equipped or trained to defend against Al Qaida operatives.

"Carrying and using weapons is a serious matter that needs to be closely examined," Faisal Bakhsh, a manager at Al Ishaa Co. for Security Services, told the Jedda-based Arab News. "It's a military responsibility and a national security issue as well. It also needs serious training and other considerations. We await instructions and decisions from the ministry."

Saudi security guards were said to be trained in such fields as first aid, fire safety regulations and basic security procedures. Some of the security guards, particularly in the oil-rich Eastern Province have been provided with body armor.

[On Tuesday, Al Qaida posted a statement on an Islamic website that threatened to kill a U.S. hostage in Saudi Arabia. The statement warned that Lockheed Martin engineer Paul Johnson would be executed within 72 hours unless Saudi authorities released Islamic insurgents being held in three prisons in the kingdom.]

The kingdom has allowed non-Saudi security guards to help protect the Western presence in Saudi Arabia. But these guards have not been allowed to carry weapons and many of them have left Saudi Arabia amid Al Qaida attacks over the last few weeks. Britain and the United States have tried to persuade Riyad to allow the entry of Western armed guards.

The Saudi security contractors have been concerned over Al Qaida's warning for Saudi nationals to stay away from Western targets and avoid working as security guards. An Al Qaida statement in early June said the Islamic movement did not to intend to target Saudi security forces.

"Everyone knows we're not armed with anything more than a baton," Mohammad Fuad, a security guard at one at major shopping center in Jedda, said. "What kind of security can we provide? I can barely defend myself." Contractors said the Al Qaida threat has not reduced the number of applicants for security guard positions. They cited high unemployment among young Saudis.

The Interior Ministry has been reviewing plans to upgrade training of security guards. A comprehensive plan could be released by September 2004.

Copyright 2004 East West Services, Inc.

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