Sickening Escalation in Al Qaeda War against US
Saudi security forces appeared to act expeditiously when Friday night, June 18, hours after the decapitated body of the American engineer Paul Johnson was found in Riyadh, they killed his purported murderer, Abdulaziz al-Muqrin in a shoot-out in the capital. Not surprisingly, Al Qaeda quickly denied the death of the most prominent of their Saudi leaders. In a statement released over their affiliated Web sites, they accused the Saudis of lying.
In the execution of Paul Johnson, Osama bin Laden’s group took its savagery to an unprecedented extreme. After performing this atrocity, they published three horrendous photographs – one showing a terrorist holding up the severed head of his victim, the second displaying the knife he used and the third showing the head placed on the back of the dead man. The act was performed, according to the statement, “in the name of Fallujah Brigade of al Qaeda,” which instantly conjured up a previous outrage against Americans in Iraq.
This symbolic linkage of events is endemic to the Middle East and strategically significant.
The disgust and horror voiced by the US president George W. Bush and vice president Dick Cheney were exactly what al Qaeda wanted and will encourage them in their belief that they can keep going.
The Saudis are certainly not stopping them. A single figure is enough to give the lie to the Saudi government’s oft-repeated claim that its security forces are truly cracking down on al Qaeda’s operations. debkafile reveals that since the September 11 attacks in the United States, no more than 1,500 Saudis have been detained on their home turf, i.e. an average of 500 per year.
That the Islamist terrorists feel little restraint was demonstrated in the two strikes they carried out last month. For 12 to 18 hours, the terrorists breezed past roadblocks and guard units in the kingdom’s most sensitive oil centers – the Red Sea town of Yanbu on May 2 and the Gulf town of Khobar (adjacent to the key oil city of Dahran where National Guards special units protect the oil installations) on May 29. They were not challenged or stopped.
The killers had plenty of time to drag the bodies of Britons around the streets of the two cities. After taking hostages in Khobar, they cut the throats of nine foreign oil workers, including one American, after separating them from their Muslim captives. To this day, there has been no official count of the foreigners who lost their lives in this outrage.
Osama bin Laden’s followers are getting away with far too much. The signature the Saudi cell appended to the photos of Paul Johnson was a way of gloating over US failure to bring to book the Iraqis and al Qaeda terrorists who lynched four American security men in Fallujah on March 31 – even though their handover was the condition for the US Marines pullback from the Sunni Triangle hotbed.
Only this week, President Bush said he saw no reason to bar rebel Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr’s entry into mainstream Iraq politics – despite his violent insurrection and his public murder of a fellow Shiite cleric. Forgotten was General Mark Kimmit’s declaration less than two months ago: “We’ll either capture him or kill him. It’s as simple as that.”
Neither is it lost on al Qaeda that, to this day, the Palestinian bombers who murdered three CIA agents in northern Gaza on October 15, 2003, walk free – even though US intelligence knows their identities and whereabouts.
Israel appears to be taking a leaf out of Washington’s book. Gaza Strip terrorists never gave up all the remains of the six Israeli soldiers blown up in the Zeitun district of Gaza City on May 11. At the time, defense minister Shaul Mofaz and IDF chief of staff, Gen. Moshe Ayalon, vowed furiously never to rest until every single part was recovered. The winds bringing in the new disengagement plan appear to have blown the vows away.
But, according to debkafile‘s exclusive intelligence and counter-terror sources, the prime factor behind the spiraling savagery of al Qaeda’s overt war against the United States is the hidden climax reached in the last two weeks in an undercover showdown, which has brought the Americans some breakthroughs.
The Islamist organizations chiefs in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia credited these breakthroughs with the penetration by US intelligence of some of their key cells.
In Afghanistan, US forces uncovered al Qaeda and Taliban hideouts in the southern and southeastern provinces of Zabul and Oruzgan. In a large battle last week at De Chopan, they managed to kill scores of al Qaeda and Taliban fighters. In Pakistan, American agents foiled the hijack of a US airliner from Karachi airport.
In Saudi Arabia, they hit on secret smuggling routes through which the terrorists imported weapons from Yemen. In raids on two Yemeni border villages, Fifa and Huba, they seized masses of ground-air missiles and explosives. On June 3, al Qaeda operatives and another weapons cache were rounded up in a raid on Haraj, a small town in the Hijaz province of western Saudi Arabia.
Al Qaeda’s supreme command struck back fast:
One, they created bogus cells in all three countries to lead the American penetration agents and special forces operatives away from the real operational units. The speed of their response points to the availability of a large manpower pool and high organizational skills. Knowing where to plant the fake cells also betrays inside knowledge of the tactical workings of American intelligence bodies.
Two, they switched from Saudi to American targets in the kingdom. In ten days, al Qaeda terrorists killed three Americans in Riyadh – last week, they released a tape showing Jewish American Vinnel employee Robert Jacob being shot near his home and the killers approaching to fire at point blank range. Last Saturday, Kenneth Scroggs was tailed to his home and murdered. After Paul Johnson, Al Qaeda is unlikely to draw the line.