- The Washington Times - Monday, October 17, 2005

‘Whirlpool of terror’

The new Saudi ambassador to the United States called the al Qaeda network a “terrorist cult” that has twisted Islam to justify its murderous rampage, but he also blamed Israel for inflaming Arab passions and leading “disillusioned misfits” to follow terrorist leader Osama bin Laden.

“Terrorism is currently the biggest single threat to international peace and stability,” Ambassador Prince Turki al-Faisal said in a speech at Britain’s Oxford University last week.

“It has ripped communities apart. It has eaten away at international and cultural understanding. It has tried to turn friends into enemies,” he said.

Prince Turki, who has served as the Saudi ambassador in London, defended his country against accusations that Saudi Arabia encouraged and financed bin Laden. Fifteen of the 19 hijackers in the September 11 terrorist attacks against the United States were Saudis.

“We are the victims, not the supporters, of terrorism,” he said in his farewell speech to the university’s Philosophy, Politics and Economics Society. “The fact that they have sprung up within our midst is as horrifying to us as it is to you.”

Prince Turki said the Saudi government has arrested more than 500 terrorist suspects, imposed laws to prevent charities from laundering money to terrorist groups and dismissed clerics who preach extremism.

The ambassador, who was head of Saudi intelligence for 24 years, knew bin Laden when the terrorist mastermind of today was a “soft-spoken, shy, retiring and reticent” supporter of the mujahedeen guerrillas fighting the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s.

After the Soviet withdrawal, bin Laden formed al Qaeda as an Arab Islamist guerrilla force that would respond when he called, Prince Turki said. Bin Laden offered to order al Qaeda into action in the Yemen civil war and to help liberate Kuwait from Saddam Hussein. The Saudi government rejected both offers, Prince Turki said.

“It quickly became apparent early in the 1990s that he and his followers had become a dangerous and quixotic force for evil,” he said.

“Al Qaeda … is a terrorist cult, not a classic terrorist organization. … They recruit from a global pool of disaffected and despairing youth looking for a cause, … who are easily sucked into this evil whirlpool of terror.”

Prince Turki blamed Israel for creating a climate in the Middle East that inflamed the “passions of these disillusioned misfits [who turned] a passion into hate and hate into indiscriminate, evil acts of terrorism.”

He added that “no cause … justifies the actions of terrorists” and noted that the Palestinians, themselves, have found “some strange and unacceptable champions — in recent years Saddam Hussein and now al Qaeda.”

Prince Turki also called on his fellow Muslims to wake up to the threat posed by terrorists who killed in the name of Islam.

“This is not Islam, and these acts are absolutely not the will of God,” he said.

“But, however hard it is,” he added, “we have to acknowledge that there are those among our human family who are committing these deeds of horror and devastation and who do not see how evil and terrible they are — and they call themselves Muslims.”

Cell phone caper

Two Bulgarian police officers apparently tried to steal the wrong cell phone when one of them pocketed the phone of the U.S. ambassador.

Bulgarian authorities yesterday identified the policemen only as Preslav P., 24, and Alexander K., 26. They said the policemen stole the cell phone after Ambassador John Beyrle left it at an X-ray machine at the airport in Varna, Bulgaria’s third largest city, on Friday.

Mr. Beyrle called for an investigation, and the policemen initially denied having taken the phone.

However, a tracking device pinpointed the phone, which was found in the uniform pocket of one of the policemen.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@washingtontimes.com.

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