Saudi Militants Raise Stakes in Battle of Wills
May 01, 2004
RIYADH -- Militants in Saudi Arabia took their battle against pro-U.S. Saudi rulers to a new level by targeting vital economic facilities in the Gulf state, killing five Westerners in a shooting spree in an oil city.
Saturday's attack in the industrial hub of Yanbu was the first to target a petrochemical complex in the country, the world's largest oil exporter.
Saudi Arabia said the shooting was carried out by workers who used their passes to access the tightly secured site and gun down the five engineers -- two Americans, two Britons and an Australian employed by Swiss-based firm ABB Lummus.
Another American and a Canadian were injured. The four gunmen were later killed in clashes with police. Two officers also died and 18 were injured.
Riyadh has cracked down on militants linked to Saudi-born Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda group since a series of suicide bombings on residential compounds in the capital last year killed 50 people, including nine Americans.
But despite the arrest or killing of suspects, militants appear determined to heed calls by al Qaeda leaders and widen the conflict by striking sophisticated and vital targets in their bid to destabilize what they see as "apostate" rulers allied with the United States.
Last month, a suspected al Qaeda suicide bomber destroyed a police headquarters in Riyadh and killed five people in the first major attack on a government target.
In Saturday's attacks witnesses said the gunmen also dragged the body of a Westerner through the streets of Yanbu but the report could not be independently confirmed.
Top Saudi al Qaeda leader Abdulaziz al-Muqrin has called for the bodies of Americans to be dragged through Saudi streets, urged fighters to expel "infidel" Americans from the birthplace of Islam and target security forces who stand in their way.
"God willing, the day will come when bodies of Americans and Jews will be dragged, humiliated and trampled in the Arabian peninsula, them and their tyrants and allies. The day will come, God willing, when we will destroy their bases over their heads and kick them out of our land," one statement by Muqrin said.
In the shooting spree in Yanbu, a city on the Red Sea, the gunmen also fired on U.S. fast food chain McDonald's and threw a pipebomb at an international school but no casualties were reported.
Riyadh has come under intense pressure from Washington to quash militants after the September 2001 airliner attacks on U.S. cities in which most of the hijackers were Saudi nationals.
Prior to the attack on the Riyadh police headquarters, Washington ordered non-essential diplomats out of Saudi Arabia and urged its 35,000 citizens to leave the country, citing fresh signals of possible attacks on Western interests.
Threats of instability could hurt efforts to attract international investment and diversify Saudi Arabia's oil-dominated economy. But it was not clear if foreign firms would scale down their operations or pull out staff. http://www.reuters.com/newsArticle.jhtml?type=worldNews&storyID=5007846§ion=news
posted on 05/01/2004 9:08:51 PM PDT
(Until they are Free, "We shall all be Iranians!")
Najaf office of Iran-based cleric involved in bid to end Sadr standoff
Sunday, May 02, 2004
NAJAF, Iraq, May 2 (AFP) - Representatives of Iran-based Grand Ayatollah Kazem Hossein Haeri are helping mediate to end a standoff between wanted Shiite Muslim cleric Moqtada Sadr and US forces, the ayatollah's office said Sunday.
An official at the office said Haeri believed that any confrontation with the Americans in this Shiite holy city would result in significant civilian casualties.
"Armed confrontation will give occupation forces the excuse to hit civilians under the cover that they are ridding Iraq of followers of ousted president Saddam Hussein or members of the Al-Qaeda terror network," the source said on condition of anonymity.
He said Sadr was "completely independent" from Haeri but the ayatollah nevertheless had authorised his office here to put pressure on the cleric and the US-led coalition to find a peaceful resolution to the standoff. The office was working through Shiite members of the US-appointed Governing Council and tribal leaders.
A fresh mediation effort involving Iraqi police chiefs and tribal leaders was announced by Sadr's spokesman on Saturday. The official at Haeri's office said the talks aimed to convince the US-led coalition to postpone the trial of Sadr, wanted in connection with the murder of a rival cleric last year, until after the June 30 deadline for the transfer of partial sovereignty to an interim Iraqi government.
As for Sadr's Mehdi Army militia, the official said that it would be converted into a political party that would have the right to take an active role in Iraq's future. "This is the solution that we find reasonable and Sayed (eds: honorific) Moqtada may accept it," said the official.
Previous mediation efforts have come to a dead-end because of what the Sadr camp described as "impossible conditions dictated by the Americans." The US-led coalition insists that while it welcomes all attempts to avoid bloodshed it is not negotiating with Sadr, who must face justice and disband his militia.
A force of 2,500 US troops is camped outside Najaf and clashes with Mehdi militiamen near Kufa to the north last week killed 64 Sadr fighters, according to the US military. Grand Ayatollah Haeri, 65, has been living in exile since 1976.
In Iraq he was a leader of the Dawa party, and then took a leading role in the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, which was Iran-based but has become the main party in post-Saddam Iraq. http://www.iranmania.com/news/020504b.asp
posted on 05/02/2004 4:54:59 AM PDT
by F14 Pilot
(John ''Fedayeen" Kerry - the Mullahs' regime candidate)
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