SAUDI SECURITY FORCES PREVENT NEW TERRORIST ATTACK
On June 23, Saudi security forces killed six al-Qaeda militants and arrested a seventh. The gun battle occurred after security forces followed the seven militants to a house in the al-Nakhil district of Riyadh (al-Jazeera, June 23). One member of the security services was killed and more were wounded. The al-Qaeda militants were, according to authorities, “preparing a terrorist operation” (al-Jazeera, June 23). The shootout lasted 30 minutes and a police helicopter assisted in the operation (al-Jazeera, June 23). After the incident, security forces rounded up more than 40 other suspected Islamist militants, including an Iraqi, an Ethiopian and two Somalis (al-Jazeera, June 25). While Saudi Arabia has had success in eliminating al-Qaeda and other Islamist fighters in the country, this latest incident demonstrates the precariousness of the security situation since armed elements are still attempting to strike devastating blows against the Saudi kingdom. After the failed al-Qaeda attack on the Abqaiq oil facility on February 24, there is concern that al-Qaeda may attempt to launch another, yet more successful, attack against Saudi oil facilities. Since May 2003, security officials say that 130 militants have been killed in attacks and clashes with police; during this same time period, 150 foreigners and Saudis, including security forces, have been killed (Gulf News, June 23).
KARZAI LAUNCHES VERBAL ASSAULT AGAINST AL-ZAWAHIRI
Al-Qaeda second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahiri, in a videotape released June 22, called on Afghans to rise up against U.S.-led forces in the country. The message was aimed at Afghan society and directed at “the young men of Islam, in the universities and schools of Kabul, to carry out there duties in defense of their religion, honor, land and country” (The Indian Express, June 23). The tape, which was apparently recorded after the May 29 car accident in Kabul that led to intense riots in the capital, was an attempt to capitalize on the public frustration directed at the United States as a result of that accident. The tape carried no English subtitles, and instead had translations in Pashtun and Farsi—the two languages that are commonly spoken in Afghanistan (The Indian Express, June 23). Recognizing the potential threat al-Zawahiri’s statements may have on the Afghan population, President Hamid Karzai quickly responded by calling al-Zawahiri “the enemy of the Afghan people” (Daily Times, June 23). He accused al-Zawahiri of being responsible for killing “thousands” of Afghans for years, saying that “we in Afghanistan want him arrested and put before justice” (al-Jazeera, June 22). Karzai’s comments and attempts to counter al-Zawahiri’s statements come as his government is facing increasing pressure as a result of Afghanistan’s emboldened Taliban insurgency.
U.S. MILITARY HUNTS DOWN NEW AL-QAEDA OPERATIVES IN IRAQ
Since the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi on June 7, the U.S. military has had a string of successful operations against al-Qaeda operatives in Iraq. On June 16, Mansur al-Mashhadani, also known as Sheikh Mansur, was killed in an airstrike after his vehicle was identified by U.S. forces in the Yusufiya area south of Baghdad. According to authorities, Sheikh Mansur was al-Qaeda’s top religious leader in Iraq, and one of the top five al-Qaeda leaders in the country. According to U.S. military spokesman Major General William Caldwell, Sheikh Mansur “was a right-hand man to Zarqawi” (Reuters, June 20). Then, on June 23, the U.S. military announced the arrest of a senior al-Qaeda suspect who the military identified as being “involved in facilitating foreign terrorists throughout central Iraq and is suspected of having ties to previous attacks on coalition and Iraqi forces.” His name has not been released. It is not clear whether these latest successes are a result of intelligence confiscated from al-Zarqawi’s safe-house. U.S. and Iraqi security forces have claimed that confiscated materials in al-Zarqawi’s safe-house contain significant information on current al-Qaeda operations.