- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Dozens of Saudi jihadis are reported to have been killed in Fallujah in recent months, and many Saudi families have visited the Iraqi city to pay their respects to their “martyred” sons.

Now the tactics employed by the Fallujah insurgents are turning up in the attacks on Westerners in Saudi Arabia.

Recent copycat incidents include the dragging of Westerners’ bodies from the back of cars, the use of assassinations to sabotage the vital oil sector and kidnapping.

“The two situations are now feeding directly off each other,” said Hussein Shobokshi, a Jidda-based Saudi businessman and political commentator. “The worse things get in Iraq, the more support and legitimacy the terrorists in Saudi Arabia are getting.”

An announcement Monday by al Qaeda that Saleh al-Awfi will be their new chief in Saudi Arabia signals that the campaign of terror is unlikely to be brought to a swift end by Friday’s killing of Abdulaziz al-Moqrin and three other members of his al Qaeda cell.

“He was the third al Qaeda leader to be killed in Saudi Arabia, and the violence is still with us,” said Ali Al-Ahmed of the Saudi Institute, a Washington-based think tank.

“And al-Awfi is more dangerous than al-Moqrin because he comes from the security ranks and has been responsible for training, recruitment and logistics. He has also spent much more time inside the kingdom.”

Al-Awfi, who was born near Medina, fought in Chechnya and Afghanistan, where he met al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden shortly before the September 11, 2001, attacks in the United States.

After the Taliban regime fell in Afghanistan, he fled the country with a group of Saudis.

“The Saudi terrorists in Iraq will provide a huge boost to al-Awfi when they return to the kingdom because of their large numbers and the tactics they have learned. He has jihadi legitimacy in their eyes, and this will result in more recruits and greater violence,” Mr. Al-Ahmed predicted.

The ideological bonds that bind the insurgents in Iraq and Saudi Arabia were made explicit by those who beheaded American Paul M. Johnson Jr. in Riyadh on Friday, when they signed their claim of responsibility “the Fallujah Brigade.”

In an attack in which six Westerners and a Saudi were killed in the Saudi Red Sea city of Yanbu last month, terrorists dragged the body of one of the victims into a local school playground and forced students to watch it.

“Come join your brothers in Fallujah,” they shouted, in reference to the city where four American contractors were similarly slain earlier this year.

The al Qaeda cell that attacked foreigners in Khobar last month also dragged the body of a Westerner through the streets. The leader of the group said on an Islamic Web site afterward that a subsidiary of Halliburton had been singled out for attack because “it has a role in Iraq.”

During the Iraq war, Saudi Arabia secretly helped the United States by allowing operations from at least three air bases as well as some command operations.

“What happened in Iraq, including the Saudi support for the campaign, added psychological pressure to those who subsequently carried out the Riyadh bombings. Iraq was the motivation for the jihadis to really go for it,” said Hamza Al-Hassan, editor of Saudi Affairs magazine in London.

“We know that dozens of Saudis have died in Fallujah in recent months, and many Saudi families have traveled there to bury their sons. There are also public funerals inside Saudi Arabia, although the state media do not report them,” he said.

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