Saudi opposition sources said Saudi security
commanders knew of the location of Al Qaida chief Abul Aziz Al Muqrin at
least three days before he executed a U.S. hostage.
The Washington-based Saudi Institute said Saudi authorities
knew of the whereabouts of the Al Qaida cell that abducted and threatened to
kill Lockheed Martin engineer Paul Johnson. But the institute said the Saudi
government decided not to move until Johnson, captured on June 12, was
"The Saudi government knew the location of a number of the terrorists
but waited until they killed American hostage Paul Johnson before moving
against them," the Saudi Institute said in a statement on Tuesday.
The institute has been regarded as a liberal opposition group that
relayed accurate information on Saudi Arabia and its security system, Middle East Newsline reported. The
institute was said to have sources in Saudi security agencies and
About 15,000 Saudi troops and police searched neighborhoods in Riyad for
two days before Johnson was beheaded by Al Qaida insurgents last weekend. On
June 18, hours after Al Qaida's announcement that Johnson was executed, Al
Muqrin and three of his leading aides were surrounded by Saudi forces and
helicopters and killed in a shootout in Riyad.
The institute cited both open-source and exclusive information for its
conclusion that Saudi security forces were ordered to wait until Johnson was
executed. The opposition group cited the wife of slain Saudi police officer,
Mohamed Ali Al Qahtani, as saying her husband knew of what she termed an
"important operation" to kill Al Muqrin and his aides two days before the
attack. Al Qahtani was killed in the shootout with Al Qaida.
"A Saudi security source has also told the Saudi Institute that the
government knew about the whereabouts of many of the terrorists days before
they were eventually killed," the institute said. "A statement by Crown
Prince Abdullah three days before the shootout similarly suggested that he
knew they would be killed, and was just a matter of when."
On June 14, Abdullah told a Saudi delegation, "You will see good news
very soon," the official Saudi Press Agency reported.
A U.S. official said he could not confirm the report by the Saudi
opposition group. But the official said U.S. intelligence has concluded that
most of the Saudi security forces, including the National Guard, has been
infiltrated by Al Qaida. He said members of the FBI and State Department
team sent to Riyad to help in the search for Johnson expressed concern that
Saudi security forces were avoiding suspected Al Qaida hideouts in Riyad.
The institute said it was told by a Saudi security source both before
and after the Al Qaida shootout that the government knew the "whereabouts of
Al Muqrin and his associates, but chose not to arrest or shoot them."
"They would rather have the terrorists free to justify the widening
security clampdown," the security source said.
On May 30, Saudi security forces were ordered to allow an Al Qaida cell
to escape the Oasis compound outside Khobar after Islamic insurgents had
executed 22 foreigners in the two-day hostage ordeal. Saudi officials later
said the government agreed to an Al Qaida demand to allow its members to
escape rather than blow up the foreign housing compound.
Western governments with a significant presence in Saudi Arabia have
been discussing the deployment of special forces to protect their embassies
and consulates. On Wednesday, the London-based Telegraph reported that
Britain has sent the SAS special force to Saudi Arabia to guard official
British facilities and help in any emergency evacuation of the 20,000
Britons who work in the kingdom.