Monday, February 27, 2006
Saudi security forces on Monday shot dead five suspected terrorists believed to be involved in a foiled attack on the world's biggest oil processing complex, the Saudi Interior Ministry said. A sixth suspect was arrested.
The shootings came after security forces raided two houses in the Saudi capital of Riyadh that had been under surveillance, Lt. Gen. Mansour al-Turki, chief spokesman for the ministry. The suspects were killed during a shootout, the ministry said in a statement.
"We think all the men involved had something to do with Abqaiq attempt," al-Turki said, referring to Friday's attempt by suicide bombers to detonate car bombs inside the world's biggest oil stabilization plant.
Fortunately, they had more justification for the killing than the "we think" standard -- a two-hour gun battle. Until Friday, al Qaeda had not been able to launch any meaningful attack in Saudi Arabia for more than a year, and it is debateable whether that attack was significant. Bluster notwithstanding, al Qaeda in Saudi Arabia is weakening and today's police action only deepens their problems.
Two guards and two would-be suicide bombers were killed. The Interior Ministry identified the attackers Sunday as Abdullah Abdul-Aziz al-Tweijri and Mohammed Saleh al-Gheith, and said both were on a list of the 15 most-wanted terrorists the kingdom issued in June.
The deaths of the two meant that only four remain at large of the list of 15. Ten have now died or been killed, and one has been arrested.
Saudi security forces have largely had al-Qaida militants on the run for the past year, arresting hundreds of suspects. They killed or captured all but one of the top 26 militants on a most-wanted list issued in December 2003, then issued the second list in June.
Whatever the role of Saudi Arabia in buying off al Qaeda before 2003, that ended with the open war between the two following the invasion of Iraq. As I have written many times before, victory in this war depends far more on creating enemies of the jihad than it does on winning friends for the United States. Minds matter far more than hearts. Saudi Arabia is a deplorable place and it depresses me whenever one of our presidents sees fit to declare it a "great friend" (however much realpolitik may require such politesse) but that does not mean that it isn't important that the Saudis are now fighting al Qaeda with hammer and tongs. That is a relatively new development that would not have come to pass -- not so soon, anyway -- had we not invaded Iraq.
UPDATE: Strategypage has a useful post on the attacks, including this bit:
Al Qaeda made a comeback in Saudi Arabia, with a February 24th suicide car bomb attack on the largest oil production facility in the country. The two cars were stopped by security guards (leaving three of the guards dead) and gunfire. The two bombs went off, killing the terrorists. Al Qaeda took responsibility for the attacks, and DNA tests of the bombers found that they were on the "36 Most Wanted Terrorists" list the Saudis issued last year.
When the putative top guys start blowing themselves up rather than recruiting others to themselves up, that might be evidence that the operation is in some strategic trouble and desperately in need of a tactical success.