Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Good news from Saudi Arabia 

War on terror goes on in Saudi Arabia:

"As many as 14 suspected terrorists, including most wanted Al-Qaeda leaders, have been killed and five others have been wounded in three days of fierce clashes, which ended here yesterday, the Interior Ministry said...

"Only 14 security men were wounded and hospitalized, the official said. Most of them, except two, sustained minor injuries, he said, adding that the injuries sustained by the two were not life threatening... It was the longest and toughest battle with the terrorists who used rocket-propelled grenades, hand grenades and machine guns against security forces...

"It was unclear whether Saleh Al-Oufi, commander of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, was among the killed in the Al-Rass battle. However, some sources said Saud Al-Otaibi, a Saudi, and Abdul Kareem Al-Majati, a Moroccan, both on the most wanted list, were among the dead. One militant belonging to the Onaiza cell surrendered to authorities, the sources said. The faces of three dead terrorists were disfigured beyond recognition and their true identity can be established only after DNA tests, a source said."
The war on terror might very well be won or lost in Saudi Arabia. A recent study of foreign jihadis has showed that of the 154 Arabs killed in Iraq in the past six months, 94 or 61 per cent were Saudis and another one (a Sudanese) was living in Saudi Arabia prior to going into Iraq (hat tip: Joe G.). As an aside:

"Particularly striking... is the absence of Egyptians among foreign Arab volunteers for the insurgency in Iraq, even though Egypt is the largest Arab country, with millions of sympathizers of Islamist groups. It is also known that many Egyptians, including professionals among them, arrived in Iraq looking for work, and some of them were taken hostage by insurgent groups. Hundreds of Egyptians also took part in previous Islamist battles in Afghanistan, Bosnia, and Chechnya. The absence of Egyptians from the list may be explained by a significant decline in the influence of Jihadi groups in Egypt; the harsh oppression of Islamists by the Egyptian authorities; the mass trials of Egyptians who returned from other regions where Islamists staged insurgencies; and the influence of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. While the Brotherhood does support the Jihad in Iraq, it advocates a strategy of propaganda only, demanding of its adherents to strictly refrain from physical participation in the Iraqi Jihad."
Wherein lies a lesson for the Saudis, too: crackdowns do work, but the political-religious establishment also needs to get serious about the problem. In the end, though, while turning off the tap of jihadis is a very positive first step, the only real solution to the underlying problem is democratization and liberalization of the Middle East which would channel people's energies away from violence, hatreds and resentments into more productive avenues of political expression and economic growth.


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