- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 2, 2002

While the search for Osama bin Laden grinds on, it's time to take stock of how his al Qaeda cohorts and their supporters are being rounded up. In the past few days, the number of suspected al Qaeda members in U.S. custody has doubled. Some will soon be moved to the U.S. Navy base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where the first military tribunals may be convened to consider their criminal liability related to the September 11 attacks.

But there are many other al Qaeda members and supporters who must be accounted for, and some of them are clearly citizens of Saudi Arabia. For months, the Saudi government has been whining about the negative coverage it has received in the Western media, but it has not taken any actions to remedy the situations that brought about this coverage. One of the most obvious tasks left undone is to round up, and at least investigate, those Saudis named on the now-famous videotape of bin Laden's mid-November meeting with an unidentified "sheik" somewhere in Kandahar, Afghanistan. In that conversation, both bin Laden and the sheik speak of a number of apparent allies, all in Saudi Arabia.

First, there is the sheik himself. There are reports that he was smuggled to the meeting by Saudi secret police. President Bush should demand full disclosure of information on this by the Saudis, and the removal of any Saudi intelligence, diplomatic or military officers found to be complicit in this or any other actions supporting bin Laden. At the outset of the conversation, the sheik thanks bin Laden for "… giving us weapons." If he is receiving weapons from al Qaeda , it's a pretty safe guess that he's up to no good. Who is he, and who is the "us" to whom he refers? The Saudis should investigate, reveal to us what they find and punish any participants in the terrorist network.

And the sheik names others: Shayk Al-Bahrani, who is said to have preached a message of praise "at the exact time of the attack on America," and Shayk Sulayman 'Ulwan, who "said this was jihad and those people [slaughtered on September 11] were not innocent people." Who are these people, and what assistance are they giving bin Laden, both by actions and by words? We heard one report that this Shayk "al-Bahrani" was misnamed in the translation, and that the correct person is a Sheik al-Barraq, who is a prominent Saudi cleric. Which is the right one, and what is being done to ensure these people cannot help bin Laden?

There are reasons to be patient with Saudi Arabia. The Wahhabist Muslim sect, which preaches fundamentalism, is a significant force with which the regime must contend. But the Saudis must understand that our patience is not endless, and that they like the rest of the world will ultimately be held to be with us or against us. Mr. Bush should be turning the heat up each day the Saudis continue to do nothing.


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