In early February, al Qaeda’s rising belligerence against Shiite Muslims began to break surface. DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s sources in Saudi Arabia drew our attention to one glaring instance, an article published in Vol. 10 of “Sout al-Jihad”, “The Voice of Jihad on the Arabian Peninsula.” The writer started out by criticizing the Saudi government’s handling of the 251 pilgrims crushed to death in a stampede at the devil-stoning ritual at Mount Arafat on February 1 during the annual pilgrimage to Mecca. But the article’s main burden was a furious assault on Saudi leaders for the crime of receiving Shiite representatives from the Eastern Provinces as part of a delegation of Saudi petitioners for reforms.
For Al Qaeda, Saudi Shiites and their coreligionists in southern Iraq are part of a single national-religious entity. The writer takes Saudi rulers to task: “How could you talk with idolatrous heretics – the brothers of monkeys (the Americans) and pigs (the Israelis).” Quoting ancient Arab poems of revenge and war, he rhetorically asks Saudi leaders if they intend following the American example in Iraq and allowing Shiites a role in government. Such dangerous developments, the author concludes, “must be stopped – even if blood has to be spilled.”
(A separate article in this issue shows Riyadh holding back information on al Qaeda from Washington).
In Lebanon, late Thursday, March 4, a close partnership began unraveling dramatically. Al Qaeda publications suddenly issued violent denunciations of Hizballah secretary general Hassan Nasrallah, the day after he condemned the Karbala and Baghdad suicide bombings. Bin Laden’s group branded Nasrallah and his group heretics. Hizballah media, including al Manar television, lashed back on the spot by declaring that the heretics were al Qaeda.