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Al Qaida appoints Saudi to replace slain operations chief

SPECIAL TO WORLD TRIBUNE.COM
Monday, June 21, 2004

ABU DHABI Al Qaida has appointed a new Saudi operations chief.

Al Qaida said in a statement on the Voice of Jihad website that Saleh Al Oufi was appointed the new chief of the Islamic insurgency group in Saudi Arabia. The statement said Al Oufi replaced Abdul Aziz Al Muqrin, 31, who was killed in a gunbattle with Saudi security forces on late June 18 in Riyad.

Al Oufi was described as a former Saudi Interior Ministry prison guard and the fourth Al Qaida chief in the kingdom since 2003. He has been cited as the fifth most wanted insurgent on Saudi Arabia's list of 26 top fugitives.

The statement said Al Muqrin had prepared Al Oufi and others to continue the war against Saudi Arabia, Middle East Newsline reported. Al Muqrin was appointed insurgency chief after the death of Khaled Ali Al Haj in a shootout with Saudi security forces in eastern Riyad in March 2004.

Al Oufi was said to be one of numerous former Saudi security officers who joined Al Qaida over the last decade. Saudi sources and media reports said he was worked as a prison guard until 1992, when he was fired for lack of discipline. He was said to lack Al Muqrin's organizational and operational experience.

U.S. and Saudi officials have termed the killing of Al Muqrin and his three lieutenants a key blow to the Al Qaida network in Saudi Arabia. They said 12 Al Qaida operatives were also arrested, one of them said to be a leading fugitive.

A Saudi official said Al Muqrin's deputy, Faisal Al Dakheel, was being prepared to become the next chief of the Al Qaida network in the kingdom.

But Al Dakheel, as well as Turki Bin Fuheid Al Muteiry and Ibrahim Bin Abdullah Al Dreiham, were killed in the weekend shootout in Riyad hours after Al Qaida announced the execution of abducted Lockheed Martin engineer Paul Johnson.

But Western intelligence sources who monitor Al Qaida discounted the prospect that Al Muqrin's death would significantly hamper the organization's capabilities. The sources said Al Qaida has about 3,000 agents and informers in the kingdom, many of them in the Saudi police and security forces.

In its statement, Al Qaida maintained that its June 12 abduction of Johnson was aided by Saudi security forces. The statement said police officers donated uniforms and a patrol car to establish a bogus checkpoint that stopped the car Johnson was driving in near Riyad's airport.

"A number of the collaborators in the security agencies sincere to their religion donated these clothes and police cars," Al Qaida said.


Copyright 2004 East West Services, Inc.

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