Dial 990: Cash Paid over for Information in Two Hours
The Saudi authorities, alarmed by the swarms of al Qaeda agents and terrorists descending on the kingdom, opened an anti-terror hotline in the middle of the week. Callers with information were told to simply dial 990 from anywhere in the kingdom. If their confidential tips on the whereabouts of al Qaeda members, plots in the planning or weapons caches checked out, they could claim a large cash reward – payable within two hours of a suspect being nabbed.
To spread the word and dangle the promised prize to all and sundry, leaflets were circulated around villages and cities.
The stunt was an instant success. DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s counter-terrorism experts quote Saudi officials who claim to have paid out one million riyals ($260,000) to hotline tipsters in three days.
Belatedly discovering the blessings of mass-circulation media, on Thursday, December 25, the Saudis began distributing more than one million loose-leafs filled with pages of photos of thousands of suspected al Qaeda terrorists. They were delivered to businesses across the country, from large banks to mobile canteens plying their trade to isolated desert tribes in the south. But in a reversion to typical Saudi mores, business owners and shopkeepers were warned they would be closed down and receive heavy fines if caught without the mug shots on the premises or if they forgot to display them to every customer.
The photos are captioned in seven languages for the benefit of foreign workers.
Another security measure implemented in Saudi Arabia this week: Saudi passports will no longer serve as valid means of identification in the kingdom.
The irony of the edict has not escaped DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s counter-terrorism sources. It is tantamount to the first royal admission that hundreds of thousands of Saudi passports were issued to radical Muslim fighters who took part in the anti-Soviet jihad in Afghanistan in 1980 and in the conflicts in Chechnya and Bosnia in the 1990s. Young Muslims also entered Afghanistan on Saudi passports in 1998 and 1999 for training in the terrorist camps run by bin Laden and his top deputy Ayman Zawahiri. The Saudi authorities have finally jumped to the clear and present danger these passport holders pose for the kingdom.
The problem isn’t limited to legitimate passports; al Qaeda and other extremist Muslim groups have been forging Saudi documents wholesale, especially in the Far East. About one million Saudi passports, genuine and forged, are believed to be in circulation. Paradoxically, they are only valued overseas – inside the kingdom, they are now virtually worthless. Under the new counter-terror restrictions, Saudis stopped at roadblocks will have to show a population registry card or a residency license.
The terrorists have deep pockets too
Saudi governmental and security officials are shocked by another disturbing discovery. Not only is a swelling wave of dozens, if not hundreds, of well-equipped al Qaeda fighters on the move and posing a threat to Saudi Arabia’s domestic and foreign air links. It turns out that despite the draconian means Saudi banks and charities have taken to choke off cash to al Qaeda, the organization is still awash with limitless funding for its operations in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf, for shopping for state-of-the-art weaponry on the international market, acquiring means of transportation and highly sophisticated communications gear and to fill monthly pay packets for thousands of operatives across the globe.
Foreign media point a finger at Saudi princes, accusing some of them of funneling funds to al Qaeda in the Gulf through bogus business deals. But DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s sources assert this is no longer true.
When they saw rivers of money still flowing from Saudi Arabia to al Qaeda, the authorities in Riyadh determined to get to the bottom of the mystery. They discovered the cash comes out of the charity boxes posted in tens of thousands of mosques across the kingdom. The “alms” supposedly destined for distressed Muslims were being delivered to al Qaeda. The slowest to catch on to this dodge were Saudi intelligence officials. Some of the boxes were found to be used as untraceable drop sites for prominent figures who were secret fans of bin Laden and no longer dared openly support his fundamentalist terror operations. When no one was looking, they stuffed large wads into a charity box in a certain mosque and tipped off their al Qaeda friends to make the pick-up.
For bin Laden, this was better than money in the bank.