Oil-Rich Gulf States Placed on Al Qaeda’s Front Burner

In a belated iron clampdown, Kuwait’s security forces have waged four bloody gun battles with al Qaeda gangs in less than a month. Oman has rounded up several hundred “Islamists” in the same period. Over the weekend, Jordan and Saudi Arabia went on terror alert to hunt down a group calling itself “Returnees from Fallujah” which was lurking in the Jordanian-Saudi border area ready to strike.
From back stage of al Qaeda`s Iraq and Saudi theaters, the Gulf emirates have been promoted to al Qaeda’s prime target for Islamist terror on a par with Jordan and Saudi Arabia. Recent al Qaeda publications appearing in Saudi Arabia register dissatisfaction with the organization’s over-involvement in Iraq and urge the relocation of resources for a more even spread of armed violence across the Middle East.
Sunday, January 30, Iraq’s election-day, a Kuwaiti police raid of two buildings in the Salimiya neighborhood of the capital met with fierce resistance from an al Qaeda band preparing an attack. Witnesses reported the block was sealed off by police vehicles while a helicopter hovered overhead. The clash ended with at least 5 dead, among them a policemen and a passerby.
Monday, January 31, the day after Iraq celebrated the defeat of terrorist attempts to disrupt its elections, Kuwait forces fought a nine-hour battle in their capital, killing four gunmen and capturing six, including the group’s spiritual leader Amer Khalif al-Enezi, a Saudi. In all four clashes, three security officers and eight suspects, including two Saudis, were killed.
It is not over. The US, British and French embassies have advised their nationals to avoid parts of Kuwait City and warn of continuing unrest.
debkafile‘s counter-terror sources report that the 50 terrorists taken captive include 15 Saudis, most of whom infiltrated Kuwait from Iraq, a handful from Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province oil region and 8 Yemeni al Qaeda adherents
The Saudi and Yemeni captives disclosed under questioning that they had reached emirate from the Iraqi towns of Fallujah and Ramadi. They were primed for action with precise instructions, the names and telephone numbers of contacts in Kuwait, addresses of weapons caches for operations, safe houses and escape routes.
Those interrogations brought to light three changes in al Qaeda’s operational mode and agenda:
One, in recent weeks, Kuwait (1 million population doubled by foreign expatriates) has begun to be perceived by al Qaeda and Iraqi terrorists not merely as a transit point for attacks in other places, but as a central target location in its own right by virtue of its oil installations and the 25,000 US troops based there.
Two, jihadist terrorists are pouring into the emirate in large numbers from Iraq and eastern Saudi Arabia.
Three, the assumption that these gunmen arrived simply because they were put to flight by clampdowns in Saudi Arabia and Iraq is refuted by the data obtained in interrogations of captives, documents, arms caches and newly-intercepted messages. They all paint the picture of a well-planned, highly professional, large-scale paramilitary organization that was set up in the autumn of 2004 for a protracted campaign – mainly against Arab Gulf oil resources and US bases.
Kuwaiti security officials were quite bowled over by the extent and diversity of the arms stores they tracked down and the clever way they were concealed and disguised in unexpected locations. A stock of 700 fragmentation and stun grenades was uncovered behind the fence of a public children’s playground. Fake gas, water and power utility boxes on city streets concealed automatic submachine guns, rocket-propelled grenades, shoulder-held anti-tank missiles and large quantities of explosives. Kuwait authorities were forced to admit that some local agency in the emirate must have been busy for weeks, undetected by US or Kuwaiti intelligence, hiring professional builders to install realistic storage facilities on main streets.
They are also disturbed by the heavy resistance and hail of grenades that awaited the security forces in all four raids. In none did the terrorists surrender without a fight.
As Kuwait plunges into its most extensive search-and-probe ever to root out the terrorist presence and its tentacles, Oman (2.9 million) too is in the grip of a deep al Qaeda penetration. Here the armed forces are also infected. Two weeks ago, a chance road accident revealed a truck hauling a large consignment of weapons for terrorist operations between hiding places. Omani authorities admitted to a “religious extremist” plot to disrupt the Muscat cultural festival, but insisted “they are not violent extremists” and only 30 were arrested. According to most other sources, the number was at least 300.
Friday, January 28, debkafile‘s counter-terror sources revealed a state of emergency had been declared in Jordan; King Abdullah, his family and court, were moved out of their Amman palace to a secure place outside the capital. Royal vehicles were given ordinary number plates and security was stepped up around government offices and hotels.
Jordanian intelligence – JID – was acting on information that a group of al Qaeda fighters from Fallujah who had dubbed themselves “The Fallujah Returnees” had infiltrated the kingdom under the lead of a Jordanian aide of Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi called Mohammed Shalabi. The group was believed to be hiding in the south somewhere between Karak east of the Dead Sea and the Saudi frontier.
Jordan’s Saudi neighbors also went on the alert, suspecting the band would be heading for the royal military town of Tabuk.

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