Saudi Arabia announced on Thursday arresting two foreigners allegedly linked to al-Qaeda, the state news agency said. Spokesman for the Ministry of Interior said the two men were arrested last week after “monitoring hatred and incitement messages on social media.”
MOI spokesman said preliminary investigation shows that the two suspects, one from Yemen and the other from Chad who has been previously deported from the kingdom and returned with a different passport, “exchanged information about imminent suicidal attacks in the region.”
The United States closed 22 embassies and consulates, mostly in the Middle East and including Saudi Arabia, in response to fears of an unspecified terrorist attack linked to al-Qaeda. The State Department also issued a global travel alert last Friday that will be in force until the end of August.
On July 25, the State Department issued a travel warning urging US citizens “to carefully consider the risks of traveling to Saudi Arabia.”
The Saudi spokesman said the computers and mobile phones found with the two suspects show that they have communicated with the “misguided group,” a term often used by the government to describe al-Qaeda and its affiliates. The spokesman added that the suspects used encrypted email and listed a number of social media accounts allegedly used by them.
On the 10th anniversary of the Riyadh compound bombings, Asharq al-Awsat runs the fascinating story of Wafa al-Yahya, a Saudi woman who allegedly escaped to Iraq after the US invasion to marry Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a jihadi fighter who became known as the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq. The story depends mostly on anonymous sources and tells of a long journey that al-Yahya took through Yemen and Syria before finally reaching Iraq. The newspaper says Saudi authorities believe that she and al-Zarqawi had a son together who was born after al-Zarqawi’s death on June 7, 2006.
The Atlantic’s Conor Friedersdorf says Saudi Arabia may be the most provocative place in the world for the US to build its drone base:
It would’ve been nice to publicly debate whether the strategic value of a drone base in Saudi Arabia outweighs the potential for blowback. Operating on a four-year time horizon, Obama has a potentially perverse incentive to over-weight short-term outcomes. If he’s especially worried about preventing a terrorist attack on his watch, it’s easy to forgive that understandable psychological bias, but it would be nice if politicians with different biases helped shape policy.
Of course, the chance of blowback might have decreased if the drone base had been kept secret forever, but what were the odds of that? Zero.
The American military presence in Saudi Arabia was used as a pretext by Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda to launch terrorist attacks inside the country in the past. Although the Saudis have managed to effectively quash al-Qaeda threat in recent years, this new revelation about the US drone base should be a source of concern.