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Monday, October 20, 2008

Saudi mosques incubating Al Qaida terrorists, Interior Minister admits

ABU DHABI — Saudi Arabia has acknowledged that mosques were recruiting and nurturing future operatives for the Al Qaida network.

Officials said that despite numerous crackdowns Al Qaida continues to recruit young Saudis for a range of operations. They said devout Saudis who frequent mosques were targeted by the Islamic network.

"Intellectual security is by no means less important than public security," Saudi Interior Minister Prince Nayef Bin Abdul Aziz said.

Nayef blamed Islamic clerics for failing to block the influence of Al Qaida, Middle East Newsline reported. The minister, in a rare criticism, said mosques have served as places of indoctrination and recruitment of what he termed extremist ideology.

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"The more than 15,000 mosques in the country constitute the best forums for guidance, but the imams have failed miserably in discharging their duties," Nayef said in an address to a seminar on intellectual security on Oct. 15. "Frankly speaking, I would like to say that the imams of mosques, with the exception of the two holy mosques, have not played their desired role."

Nayef did not detail the failure of imams and other clerics. The minister also urged Saudi universities to contribute to the fight against Islamic extremism.

"Since universities are centers of research, it is their duty to study ways to root out ideas that distort religion and defame the nation," Nayef said. "Universities should be capable of contributing to the service of the country and it is in line with the teaching of Islam, which urges its followers to benefit from fruits of learning."

The Interior Ministry has reported major achievements in the war against Al Qaida in 2008. The ministry said more than 700 suspected operatives have been arrested and that several mass-casualty strikes were foiled.

"We have proved to the world that the Saudi security forces are capable of confronting the challenges of the deviant ideology though the country was the main target of extremist plots," Nayef said.

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