DEBKAfile Exclusive Report May 4, 2004
The world's largest oil producer was shaken Saturday, May 1, by the first terrorist strike against a joint US-Saudi oil venture, the co-owned Exxon-Mobil-SABIC oil refinery at the kingdom's main oil exporting outlet to the West at the Red Sea port of Yanbu 350 km northwest of Riyadh. At least five Western engineers - 2 Americans, 2 Britons and an Australian as well as a Saudi National Guards captain were killed and many more injured, including two Canadians. The Saudi ambassador to Britain, Prince Turki bin-Faisal, said the attack was carried out by Saudi members of the al Qaeda "cult", three of whom were gunned down by Saudi security forces and a fourth captured. The attack began just after dawn and raged until the afternoon, as the suicide killers, in Saudi National Guards uniforms, yelling "Jihad, Jihad!" careened around downtown Yanbu in a commandeered Saudi security vehicle and cars seized from private citizens.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report March 22, 2004
US-Saudi relations, uneven since 9/11, have hit a new low over a fresh bone of contention: a sharply-worded protest from Washington against the continued detention of 16 Saudi reform campaigners, half of them university professors and including a number of Shiite spokesmen. Their immediate release was demanded. debkafile's Washington and Middle East sources describe this action as the first direct protest to an Arab nation in the framework of President George W. Bush's initiative for spreading democratic reforms throughout the Greater Middle East. The protest was in effect an American jog to the Saudi elbow to speed up change. Riyadh's response was furious enough to have Secretary of State Colin Powell make an unscheduled detour after Islamabad and Baghdad and turn up in Riyadh Friday, March 19.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report January 6, 2004
They got a harsh response from Prince Nayef, the interior minister who leads the war against al-Qaeda. "The weak can't challenge the mighty. We are not a regime that wants people to be satisfied with us. We are here in Saudi Arabia in order to rule," he declared last weekend during two stormy meetings with two separate reformist delegations, which included notables, intellectuals, academics, and senior business figures.
In response to Nayef's remarks, one participant remarked "We should understand from what you are saying that you are a regime that is working against the people." debkafile sources report that this sharp exchange, which occurred at the beginning of the meeting, was later followed by a climactic outburst by a leading businessman who got up and said, "We haven't gone down this whole road (of reform efforts) in order to regress now because of the way you are talking. If you want to throw us into prison, do it now before we leave this meeting."
Such straight talking has not been heard before at meetings between members of the royal house and influential citizens. The royal family now faces double pressure: the war against al-Qaeda and a fast growing domestic demand for reform. The absence of essential reforms, and the refusal of members of the royal family even to discuss these reforms, is causing ever larger sections of the Saudi population to distance their support and themselves from the royal house. In such an atmosphere, young Saudis find themselves encouraged to join radical and militant opposition movements, such as al-Qaeda.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report November 11, 2003
The suicide bombing attack Saturday night November 9 that devastated Riyadh's Muhaya compound and killed scores was the work of an al Qaeda Lebanese team, according to our intelligence and counter-terror sources. With this strike, Osama bin Laden's Lebanese arm made its debut on the stage of international terror. debkafile has been reporting for more than a year that the Islamic network had built up three concentrations in Lebanon - in Tripoli in the north, Beirut and the Palestinian Ain Hilweh refugee camp in the south. Pointers to a Lebanese hit-team accumulated in the hands of Saudi intelligence and American counter-terror agencies in the Middle East 48 hours before the suicide bombers struck the Riyadh compound. The group was reported to be made up of al Qaeda operatives, Lebanese nationals and their Palestinian recruits.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report November 10, 2003
Though similar in operational method to the May 12 triple suicide attack in Riyadh, al Qaeda's suicide assault on the Muhaya housing complex in the Saudi capital Saturday night November 9 exposed two new features. Osama bin Laden's terrorists have taken a threatening step closer to one of their premier targets, the Saudi royal house; and their recruitment base of non-Saudi zealots is expanding. US deputy secretary of state Richard Armitage, who flew into Riyadh for security talks with Crown Prince Abdullah from Baghdad, said Monday, November 10, to Al Arabiya TV: "It is clear to me that al Qaeda wants to take down the royal family and government of Saudi Arabia."
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report May 18, 2003
mg class="picture" src="/dynmedia/pictures/ThumbME_medite.jpg" align="right" border="0">
Click on small map for spread of al Qaeda network`s international bases.
1. The casualty count in al Qaeda's chain of attacks in Riyadh on Monday, May 12, is between 94 and 96 killed and 196 injured - almost triple the 34 dead grudgingly admitted by the Saudi authorities.
2. The assailants aimed for American targets at the hub of the US-Saudi strategic partnership. This stood out in their choice of the guarded, gated residential compounds to striket: Al-Hamra in East Riyadh on the way to King Khaled international airport, Arizona and Granada, homes to Americans and Britishers who help the royal government in the most sensitive security domains. Many of the Americans are on the staff of Vinnell, a subsidiary of the Northrop-Grumann aircraft manufacturer, as well as Boeing. Since 1975, Vinnell has been training members of the Saudi National Guard whose commander is Crown Prince Abdullah, for its primary task of defending the crown from external or domestic danger. The Boeing staffers instructed Saudi Air Force crews the handling of AWACs planes.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report May 13, 2003
After midnight Monday, May 12, Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network struck the United States and Saudi Arabia with devastating effect. In a multiple, multi-layered terrorist operation plotted as carefully as any military raid, small suicide squads hit three gated and guarded estates housing westerners in Riyadh and an American-Saudi partnership office - hours before US secretary of state Colin Powell flew in for a visit. The perpetrators displayed high skills in planning, intelligence, mobility and execution.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report February 14, 2003
A bare two days after the latest audio tape attributed to Osama bin Laden was aired, al Qaeda has spoken again, refusing to leave the stage to Washington's comments and the guesswork surrounding the high terror alert declared in the United States, Britain, Saudi Arabia and Israel. Normally, months go by between al Qaeda statements. Not this time, according to a fresh release that reached debkafile's counter-terrorism and intelligence sources Thursday, February 13. The new Al Qaeda message is signed by Abu al Bara'a Al-Qarshy, one of bin Laden's most trusted lieutenants, who explicitly promises a painful terrorist attack is on the way. He hints that the attack will target Americans in Saudi Arabia or the Arabian Peninsula.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report November 19, 2002
Whether because of the proximity of Osama bin Laden in the Empty Quarter desert that fringes Saudi Arabia, Oman, Yemen and the UAR, or because of the debilitating squabbles besetting royal authority, debkafile's Gulf sources report that al Qaeda's followers in the oil kingdom are becoming increasingly brazen. Of late, they have been seen in the streets of Riyadh in armed gangs. Last Saturday, November 16, Saudi security forces clashed with a group in the al Shafaa quarter to the south of the capital. Both sides suffered casualties. Since the sounds of battle, automatic gunfire and exploding grenades were too loud for concealment, Interior Minister Prince Nayef, who is responsible for internal security, came out with an unusual statement Monday, November 14.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report October 14, 2002
The three overriding concerns exercising the Saudi royal family this past year were the state of relations with the Bush administration - the president and vice president, in particular; the handling of its unacknowledged ties with al-Qaeda and other radical Moslem groups - the Palestinian Hamas in the Gaza Strip and extremists in Pakistan, Bosnia and Chechnya; and the coming US war against Iraq.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report August 12, 2002
Saudi foreign minister Saud al Faisal's disclosure to the Washington Post of Sunday - August 11, that Iran had expelled to Saudi Arabia 16 al Qaeda fighters - was Riyadh's riposte for the damaging briefing presented recently by a Rand Corp analyst to a Pentagon advisory board. The briefing described Saudi Arabia as an enemy of the United States, charging the Saudis with being "active at every level of the terror chain from planners to financiers, from cadre to foot soldier, from ideologist to cheerleader."
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report April 24, 2002
Saudi Arabia denies it has massed 8 brigades on its Jordanian border following secret intelligence reports of Israeli troop concentrations onits frontier with Jordan. (The Kingdom of Jordan is wedged between Saudi Arabia, Israel, Iraq and Syria.) Israel denied the Saudi claim Tuesday, April 23. The comeback was fast: "A responsible source" at the kingdom's defense and aviation ministry stated that Saudi armed forces units are merely conducting "routine exercises" in the northwestern region, not beefing up their troop presence there.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report March 28, 2002
Our military sources report that the Americans have completed the relocation to Qatar of their biggest Saudi air base at Prince Sultan. With the removal of most of the base's operational elements, Prince Sultan is no longer a part of the American operational deployment in the Persian Gulf and its preparations for war against Iraq. At the same time, the Saudi rulers have set their own military preparations in train. The Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abdulaziz floated his Middle East peace initiative in the first place to enhance his standing in American eyes and also win points inside the royal house. As it turned out, his effort bounced back against him.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report February 25, 2002
Probably no one was more surprised than Saudi Arabia's virtual ruler, Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, by the furor - including Israel president Moshe Katsav's offer to fly to Riyadh - raised by a single sentence he uttered in an interview to the New York Times columnist Thomas L, Friedman, after it was published February 18: "...this is exactly the idea I had in mind - full withdrawal from all the occupied territories, in accordance with UN resolutions, including in Jerusalem, for full normalization of relations. I have drafted a speech along those lines [for the Arab League summit meeting in Beirut on March 28]."