U.S. Department of State Country Reports on Terrorism 2004 - Saudi Arabia

In 2004, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia continued to support the global war on terror. Terrorists killed dozens of foreigners and citizens, including six Americans, in attacks throughout the country. The attacks consisted of kidnappings, armed assaults, targeted shootings, bombings, and beheadings. In the first half of 2004, the al-Qa'ida presence in Saudi Arabia kept up a steady tempo of attacks, surpassing the number and lethality of attacks conducted in the previous year. In the second half of the year, facing concerted pressure from Saudi authorities, the network appeared to be largely on the defensive, and did not mount a major operation until the December 6 attack on the US Consulate General in Jeddah. Five foreign nationals – four locally engaged staff and one local guard – working at the Consulate were killed. This attack was later claimed by "al-Qa'ida in the Arabian Peninsula," which also claimed credit for other deadly attacks against American citizens in 2004. Two car bombs, one aimed at the Ministry of Interior, exploded December 29, killing one passer-by and injuring several others.

In response to the wave of terrorist violence in the Kingdom, the Saudi Government aggressively pursued terrorists and achieved successes, including the capture or killing of all but seven of the Kingdom's 26 most-wanted terrorists and most of the known terrorist leadership in Saudi Arabia. Saudi forces launched dozens of security sweeps throughout the country, dismantling several al-Qa'ida cells, some of which were directly involved in attacks against US citizens and interests. More than thirty members of the Saudi security forces lost their lives in this campaign.

Saudi Arabia continued a public outreach campaign in the war against terror. As custodian of the two holy mosques in Mecca and Medina, the Saudi Government worked to delegitimize the inappropriate use of Islam to justify terrorist attacks. During the year, Saudi authorities aired confessions of militants and interviews with fathers of wanted men as part of a campaign to rally the public against radicals who carried out attacks in the Kingdom. In June, the Grand Mufti Shaykh Abd al-Aziz Al al-Shaykh issued a fatwa condemning terrorist acts and calling on citizens to report "saboteurs and anyone planning or preparing to carry out terrorist acts to the concerned authorities." Also in June, six senior religious leaders issued a statement denouncing terrorist attacks as "heinous crimes." A November "fatwa" issued by 26 radical Saudi clerics, who called on Iraqis to resist Coalition forces in Iraq by force, was rebutted by senior members of the Saudi official religious establishment, including the Grand Mufti. The Government also focused on internal social, political, and economic reforms as a method to reduce the appeal of radical ideologies. The media reported widely on each of the attacks conducted by terrorists in the Kingdom and the subsequent Government crackdown, leading to widespread public recognition that terrorism is a serious threat in the Kingdom, not only to foreigners, but to Saudis as well.

During the year, the Government launched intensive searches and counterterrorism sweeps in the country, often involving thousands of Saudi security personnel. On June 23, Crown Prince Abdullah issued an ultimatum to terrorists: surrender in 30 days or suffer the full force of the state. The ultimatum prompted several notable extremists to turn themselves in, including one terrorist suspect on Saudi Arabia's 26 most-wanted list. On June 29, the Prince Nayif Security Academy began training employees of the national oil company (Saudi ARAMCO) on counterterrorism measures. On the same day, the Ministry of Interior announced a 60-day pardon for persons to surrender unlicensed weapons.

In July, reporting on the results of a mutual evaluation conducted in 2003, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) concluded that Saudi Arabia's financial regime met the general obligations of the organization's recommendations for combating money laundering and financing of terrorism. The Government continued to take steps to make operational a financial intelligence unit (FIU) established in 2003 under anti-money laundering and antiterrorist financing law. Concerned about the possible misuse of charitable organizations for terrorist purposes, the Government issued a set of bylaws for the Commission for Relief and Charitable Work Abroad, designed to oversee all Saudi charities. In this regard, the Government ordered the closure of the al-Haramain Foundation, a Saudi charity with a number of overseas offices that had been designated by the UN Sanctions Committee for providing support for terrorist activities. The Government also maintained its prohibition, imposed in 2003, on the collection of cash donations at mosques or commercial establishments and its restrictions on the bank accounts of charities, including prohibiting fund transfers out of the country. The media reported during the year that Saudi banks froze more than 250,000 accounts for noncompliance with anti-money laundering and terrorist finance laws. During the year, the Saudi Government requested that the UN 1267 Sanctions Committee add entities and individuals suspected of terrorist activities or of supporting terrorists to its consolidated list.

Disclaimer:

This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.