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6/7/04 - TERRORISM IN SAUDI ARABIA - 2004-06-07

A manhunt is under way in Saudi Arabia for terrorists who took dozens of foreigners hostage at a housing complex for employees of major Western oil firms in the Saudi city of Khobar on May 30th. The standoff ended the following day when Saudi commandos stormed the complex. Twenty-two people were killed and dozens wounded. The leader of the hostage-takers was captured, but three other terrorists escaped.

An internet statement purported to be from al-Qaida claimed responsibility for the hostage-taking and promised more attacks against what it called “the infidels.” In another statement, Abdulaziz al-Moqrin, who is believed to lead al-Qaida operations in the region, vowed that the remainder of this year would be bloody and miserable for Saudi Arabia.

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell says, in the wake of these attacks and threats of further bloodshed, he expects an even more vigorous anti-terrorism effort by Saudi leaders:

"I am confident that the Saudis, as all other nations should, will be redoubling their efforts with respect to law enforcement, with respect to intelligence exchange, with respect to drying up terrorist financing, with respect to border controls, knowing who is in your country and for what purpose, and I think the Saudis will redouble their efforts. They have been doing a great deal in recent months, and I would expect them to do more."

One important anti-terrorism action that Saudi Arabia has taken is its promise to crack down on private Saudi charities that fund terrorism. Saudi Arabia is creating a commission to manage all the country’s private charitable work abroad. Saudi authorities are also dissolving one so-called charitable group -- the Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation -- which has been designated by the U.S. as a terrorist front. This represents a major step by the Saudi government to assert control over a flow of money that has made the country a major source of financing for terrorist groups.

President George W. Bush says, “No nation or region is exempt from the terrorists’ campaign of violence.” As Mr. Bush put it, "Nations will continue their war against terrorists wherever they gather, wherever they plan, and wherever they act.”