- The Washington Times - Monday, June 7, 2004

Al Qaeda militants in Saudi Arabia have warned of new terrorist attacks on U.S. and other Western air carriers and at major transportation centers, according to a statement posted yesterday on an Islamic Web site that has been supportive of the al Qaeda network.

“All [residential] compounds, the bases and the means of transportation of the crusaders, especially Western and U.S. airlines, will be the direct target of our next operations,” according to the statement, which also urged Muslims in Saudi Arabia to keep away from potential target sites.

The statement, whose authenticity could not be immediately verified, was signed “al Qaeda on the Arabian Peninsula,” and vowed to continue its “jihad,” or holy war, against the United States and others “in the near future.”

“We reiterate our warning to our Muslim brothers against the presence of the crusaders, including Americans, [Westerners] and all other infidels in the Arab Peninsula,” the statement said. “The Muslims should isolate them completely.”

State Department deputy spokesman Adam Ereli said yesterday that existing travel warnings for U.S. citizens call attention to possible threats to commercial aviation in Saudi Arabia and urged Americans to take that into account when making travel plans.

Yesterday’s al Qaeda statement also warned security officials in Saudi Arabia not to intervene or to support the United States against the “mujahideen,” or holy fighters, in Saudi Arabia. A Saudi diplomat yesterday told Reuters the militant group was behind Sunday’s fatal attack on a BBC cameraman in Riyadh.

The Web site is known for posting messages from militants, and it posted the video in which terrorists tied to al Qaeda executed American Nicholas Berg.

“We renew our warning to the security services, to the guards at the housing complexes of the crusaders and at the American bases and all others who are on the side of the Americans and against the mujahideen and to their agents in the Saudi government,” it said.

The reputed leader of al Qaeda in Saudi Arabia is Abdul Aziz al-Muqrin, who tops a Saudi list of 26 most-wanted terror suspects. That list is now down to 18 with the capture over the past year of eight during a nationwide crackdown on suspected al Qaeda sympathizers by the Saudi government.

Last week, a statement by al-Muqrin — published on the same Internet site — congratulated the al Qaeda terrorist network on killing “all the infidels” in the attacks May 29 in the Saudi oil city of Khobar that claimed 22 lives. During that attack, gunmen reportedly separated out and spared Muslims and Arabs and killed non-Muslims.

A separate May 30 statement said the terrorist organization had vowed to “cleanse the Arabian Peninsula of infidels.”

“We renew our determination to repel the crusader forces and their arrogance, to liberate the land of Muslims, to apply Shariah [Islamic law] and cleanse the Arabian Peninsula of infidels,” that statement said.

U.S. intelligence officials believe al-Muqrin was the mastermind of the May and November suicide bomb attacks in Saudi Arabia, in which 53 persons died, including nine Americans. They described him as an al Qaeda loyalist, in his 30s, who trained at a terrorist camp in Afghanistan when he was a teenager and later joined the war in Bosnia.

They said he spent time in a Saudi prison, where he memorized the Koran.

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