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US applauds Saudi al Qaeda raids

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26 March 2010 08:24

Carla Liuzzo is a freelance consultant living in Doha, Qatar.

Saudi Arabia claims it thwarted a significant terrorist attack this week. Authorities in the Kingdom arrested what it says are 113 al Qaeda militants who were planning to attack its oil facilities.

The Saudis are saying that almost half the arrested terrorists are Yemeni (others being from Saudi, Bangladesh, Eritrea and Somalia). Backing for the group is said to have come from the Yemen-based al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. With no love lost between the two countries, Saudi Arabia is very keen to deflect blame for terrorist cells operating within its own borders onto its foe, Yemen.

Saudi Arabia's perceived decisiveness certainly adds to the durability of its relationship with the US, and the operation was quickly commended by the US State Department (which has a failed-state status pending on Yemen).

The arrests bring to fore the catastrophic implications of an attack on Saudi oil installations and particularly the vulnerability of the US in this scenario. Robert Baer, formerly of the CIA, set out in Sleeping with the Devil: How Washington Sold Our Soul for Saudi Crude the potentially dire situation: '...a single jumbo jet with a suicide bomber at the controls, hijacked during takeoff from Dubai and crashed into the heart of Ras Tanura, would be enough to bring the world's oil-addicted economies to their knees, America's along with them.'

Tensions between Saudi and Yemen have been rising; at the end of 2009 Saudi launched a major military offensive against Shi'ite Houthis rebels in northern Yemen after a border incursion resulted in the deaths of two Saudi guards. In these latest developments the Saudi Foreign Ministry says foreign terrorists entered the country from Yemen posing as workers or pilgrims to holy sites in Meccah and Madinah.

Photo by Flickr user chrisevans, used under a Creative Commons license.

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