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.
Asharq al-Awsat has been running a series of articles on the 10th anniversary of Riyadh compound bombings. The latest is this piece by Thomas Hegghammer, author of Jihad in Saudi Arabia, who lists ten lessons that we have learned from that deadly terrorist attack. Lesson no. 9:
Counter-terrorism works best when it is targeted and calibrated. The Saudi response to the Riyadh Compound bombings was relatively successful because it was restrained. History is full of governments that responded to terrorism by lashing out against an invisible enemy, thereby creating new grievances that only served to aggravate the problem. Unlike Algeria and Egypt in the 1990s, Saudi Arabia did not conduct mass arrests and appears to have abstained from systematic torture. It also developed a prisoner rehabilitation program that, despite some cases of recidivism, is better than most alternatives. However, not everything is rosy: like the United States, Saudi Arabia has a detainee problem in the form of individuals that the government, for various reasons, does not want to put on trial, but who are considered too dangerous to release.
Saudi Arabia is hoping to wean jailed Al-Qaeda militants off religious extremism with counseling, spa treatments and plenty of exercise at a luxury rehabilitation centre in Riyadh.
In between sessions with counsellors and talks on religion, prisoners will be able to relax in the centre’s facilities which include an Olympic-size indoor swimming pool, a sauna, a gym and a television hall.
The new complex is the work of the Prince Mohammed bin Nayef Centre for Counseling and Care, a body set up seven years ago to rehabilitate extremists jailed during a Saudi crackdown on the local branch of Al-Qaeda.
Wall Street Journal correspondent Ellen Knickmeyer says this an exaggeration:
Wael Omar Moathen is a Saudi student in Boston who posted this account of his experience at the bombings that took place near the finish line of Boston Marathon yesterday:
Boston Marathon is the oldest in the world. This year’s race is the 117th in its history. For the people of Boston, it is a holiday and a day of happiness. Like any human being who lives in this city, I picked up my camera and headed to Mile 26, the last mile in the race. I was taking photos and enjoying the cheers. My friend Mohammad Bokhari called me asking about my location. Coincidentally I was standing opposite to him, and we were talking about how to meet because the race is between us. Suddenly, we heard the sound of an explosion. A very loud sound that felt as if it was inside our hearts, so loud that it felt as if it was coming from everywhere. I noticed that the bombing was before me on the opposite sidewalk but on the right side near the finish line. I could not comprehend what happened. I tried to understand it but I couldn’t. I was still on the phone with Mohammad. Suddenly, another explosion blasted before me and right next to Mohammad. I saw the sparks fly and smoke rises with my own eyes. People started to run. We ran to the opposite direction of the marathon, heading to entrances of the nearest hotels and shops on the sides of Boylston St. Even the runners were jumping the fence and running with us. Then I saw everything possible beneath me. I saw a woman that I almost ran over, and I thought for a moment: should I help her or keep running. It seems that the survival instinct was stronger than chivalry. People were screaming and crying. I was worried that I was running to the location of another bomb. I reached the entrance of a hotel and saw that some people refused to enter because it is a high building. The memories of a previous attack came to them. I entered the hotel. It was full of people. Children in severe panic and tears. Everyone asking about who they are missing of their family and friends. I remembered that Mohammad was on the phone before the call dropped. I called him. He did not pick up!!! He later called and said he was fine. When you are in the scene, you don’t know what will happen. That was clear on the faces of people scared by the two bombings. That was the worst thing. We did not know if it was over. How will it end? Is it going to be alright? When you watch on TV or someone tells you, that’s much easier than being in the middle of explosions. I was praying, realizing that I could die today. Death was before us.
Hotel guards led us to a back exit that got us to Prudential Center, where hundreds of people have gathered. On the way, we passed by a glass corridor looking over the scene. The police and paramedics reaction was faster than anyone could imagine. They were helping the injured scattered on the ground, soaked in their blood. Dogs were inspecting everything like bags. We reached the Center, there was a television in one store showing CNN. When an event is being broadcast live on national television and not just local television, that means the event is very big. For the first time I saw what happened. I found another television by one bank showing Boston Ch5 and people sat in front of it. I sat with them. At the Center, the police would frequently give instructions for people to leave or stay. As we waited, the bank manager came out to offer that we use the bank phones, WiFi and bathrooms. I felt relatively safe in that place. The police asked us to remain there. After two hours of the explosion, I managed to rent a bicycle and go home.
Two explosions rocked the American city of Boston on Monday afternoon, killing at least three people and injuring more than 140. The injured included a Saudi female student whose leg was severely injured. Early media reports said authorities are questioning another Saudi student who was seen running from the bombing area and is being treated at a local hospital for serious burns. However, police stressed that they do not have a suspect in custody.
Saudi Ambassador to the United States Adel al-Jubeir condemned the bombings and offered his condolences to victims’ families. “What occurred today in Boston is a heinous crime which contradicts the values of humanity,” he said. Al-Jubeir received a phone call from King Abdullah early Tuesday to check on the situation of Saudi citizens in the US after the bombings, the official state news agency said.
On Twitter, many Saudis expressed their fear that one of their countrymen could be involved in the bombings. According to the Saudi cultural attaché in the US, there are more than 1,000 Saudi students going to school in Boston. Many also expressed their sympathy to the city and condemnation of the bombings. Here’s some of the reactions: