Overview: During 2012, the Government of Saudi Arabia continued its long-term counterterrorism strategy to track and halt the activities of terrorists and terrorist financiers, dismantle the physical presence of al-Qa'ida, and impede the ability of militants to operate from or within the Kingdom. As part of this strategy, Saudi authorities also continued public trials of individuals suspected of engaging in or supporting terrorism. In August, Saudi authorities announced they had discovered and partially rounded up two separate terrorist cells (one in Riyadh and the other in Jeddah) affiliated with al-Qa'ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). AQAP continued to be the Kingdom's primary terrorist threat, and efforts to counter this threat were hampered by the ongoing instability in Yemen. Throughout the year, AQAP noticeably stepped up its efforts to inspire sympathizers throughout Saudi Arabia in an effort to compensate for difficulties in carrying out cross-border attacks. Saudi Arabia continued to maintain a robust counterterrorism relationship with the United States and supported enhanced bilateral cooperation to ensure the safety of U.S. citizens within Saudi territories and beyond.

2012 Terrorist Incidents: Beyond the two disrupted terrorist cells in August, there were at least two incidents involving suspected terrorists along the Saudi-Yemeni border. On October 14, Saudi security forces in Jizan province killed two Yemeni nationals who attempted to pass a checkpoint with explosives and four suicide vests for use in "imminent attacks against vital targets," according to an official statement. On November 5, 11 former prisoners, who recently had been released after having served their sentences for terrorism-related offenses, attacked and killed two Saudi border guards who attempted to stop the former prisoners from crossing into Yemen near Sharurah in Najran province. The group, composed of 10 Saudis and one Yemeni, was subsequently arrested.

Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Saudi Arabia continued its efforts to track, arrest, and prosecute terrorists within the Kingdom. The Ministry of Interior continued to improve border security measures, including the ongoing installation of biometric scanners at entry points throughout the Kingdom; aerial reconnaissance drones to patrol remote areas; thermal imaging systems; and motion detectors and electronic-sensor fencing along the borders with Iraq, Yemen, and Jordan.

Neighborhood police units engaged and worked directly with community members, encouraging citizens to provide tips and information about potential terrorist activity. The Saudi government offered rewards for information on suspected terrorists, and there were multiple announcements throughout the year of arrests of AQAP militants and supporters.

As part of the Saudi government's move to bring to trial groups and individuals suspected of terrorism, judicial actions included:

  • On April 4, the Specialized Criminal Court began the public trial of a group dubbed the "Cell of 55" (composed of 54 Saudis and one Yemeni), which was allegedly responsible for the 2004 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Jeddah. The trial was ongoing at year's end.

  • The trial of 11 Saudis linked to the May 2004 attack on a refinery in Yanbu, in which two American citizens were killed, continued during the year.

  • On June 26, the Specialized Criminal Court sentenced one member of the 11-person "Khafji cell" to 15 years in prison followed by a 15-year travel ban; the man was found guilty of supporting terrorism through money laundering and other crimes, such as possessing unlicensed fire arms.

Countering Terrorist Finance: Saudi Arabia is a member of the Middle East and North Africa Financial Action Task Force, a Financial Action Task Force (FATF)-style regional body. Bulk cash smuggling from individual donors and charities has reportedly provided financing to violent extremist and terrorist groups over the past 25 years. With the advent of tighter bank regulations, funds are reportedly collected and illicitly transferred in cash, often via pilgrims performing Hajj or Umrah. The Saudi government has attempted to consolidate charitable campaigns under Ministry of Interior supervision. The Saudi Arabian Financial Intelligence Unit, or SAFIU, is a member of the Egmont Group. The Saudi government continued to provide special training programs for bankers, prosecutors, judges, customs officers, and other officials from government departments and agencies as part of its efforts to maintain financial controls designed to counter terrorist financing. Despite serious and effective efforts to counter the funding of terrorism originating from within its borders, entities in Saudi Arabia continue to serve as an important source of cash flowing to violent Sunni extremist groups. Saudi officials acknowledged difficulty in following the money trail with regard to illicit finance due to the preference for cash transactions in the country. For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, we refer you to the 2013 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume 2, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes: http://www.state.gov/j/inl/rls/nrcrpt/index.htm.

Regional and International Cooperation: Saudi Arabia cooperated regionally and internationally on counterterrorism issues. It is a founding member of the Global Counterterrorism Forum, and has been a member of the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism and the Proliferation Security Initiative since 2008. Saudi Arabia is also a member of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), which itself is a member of the FATF. Saudi government officials issued statements encouraging enhanced cooperation among GCC and Arab League states on counterterrorism issues, and the Saudi government hosted international counterterrorism conferences on subjects ranging from combating violent extremist ideology to countering terrorist financing.

Throughout the year, Saudi security professionals regularly participated in joint programs around the world, including in Europe and the United States. In addition to Saudi Arabia's bilateral cooperation with the United States, Saudi security officials also worked with other international counterparts to conduct missions and exchange information. Throughout the year, Saudi Arabia concluded security-related bilateral agreements (including counterterrorism and anti-money laundering cooperation) with a number of countries, including Albania, Belarus, Bermuda, Comoros, Indonesia, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, San Marino, and Singapore. In November, Saudi Arabia, along with the other five GCC member states, concluded a GCC-wide security agreement including counterterrorism cooperation. In April, the Kingdom ratified the Arab Agreement on Anti-Money Laundering and Counterterrorism Financing. In June, Saudi Arabia extradited Indian national Abu Jundal (also known as Zabiuddin Sayed Zakiuddin Ansari) to India to stand trial for his alleged involvement in the 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai.

Countering Radicalization and Violent Extremism: The Saudi government focused on: increasing public awareness campaigns; and conducting outreach, counter-radicalization, and rehabilitation programs. Some of these efforts involved seminars that refuted violent Islamist extremist interpretation and ideology. Public awareness campaigns aimed to raise awareness among Saudi citizens about the dangers of violent extremism and terrorism. Methods used included advertisements and programs on television, in schools and mosques, and at sporting events. The government also issued statements condemning terrorists and denouncing terrorist attacks across the world, including the September attack against the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

The Ministry of Interior continued to operate its flagship de-radicalization program (the Sakina Campaign for Dialogue), as well as its extensive prison rehabilitation program to reduce recidivism among former inmates. The Ministry of Islamic Affairs continued to re-educate imams, prohibiting them from incitement to violence, and monitored mosques and religious education. The Saudi government also continued its ongoing program to modernize the educational curriculum, including textbooks used in religious training. We refer you to the Department of State's Annual Report to Congress on International Religious Freedom (http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/irf/) for further information.


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