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News ::
Saudi prince: Saudi Arabia will not prevent jihad (english)
14 Jan 2003
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia - Saudi Arabia will never fightIslamic trends or prevent holy struggle in God's name, but is detaining Saudis as part of efforts to track al-Qaida members and protect its citizens, a senior Saudi official said in remarks published Tuesday.

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia - Saudi Arabia will never fightIslamic trends or prevent holy struggle in God's name, but is detaining Saudis as part of efforts to track al-Qaida members and protect its citizens, a senior Saudi official said in remarks published Tuesday.

"The kingdom can never fight the Islamic trend because it is the country of Islam, and it can never fight any effort made for the good - especially jihad (holy struggle) in the name of God," deputy Interior Minister Prince Ahmed said, according to the Okaz daily newspaper.

Since the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States, Saudi Arabia has been criticized as too tolerant of Islamic extremism and for supporting charities active in Muslim countries gripped by armed conflict, including Afghanistan and Chechnya.

Western reports have suggested Saudi money contributed to such charities was being used to support Islamic extremist groups - a claim denied by the Saudis, who insist their aid has been offered purely for social and medical purposes.

Prince Ahmed, speaking to reporters Monday, said pursuing and detaining a number of Saudis was part of tracking down members of al-Qaida. It was, he said, motivated by "the kingdom's desire to preserve its citizens from destructive discussions." He did not elaborate.

Saudi Arabia is in a delicate position when it comes to dealing with extremism.

The monarchy and the fundamentalist religious establishment long have relied on each other for strength and stability. Alleged terror mastermind Osama bin Laden's violent anti-West rhetoric presented as a defense of Islam resonates among some fundamentalists in the kingdom. But the kingdom is a close ally of the United States and has been plagued by bin Laden since the early 1990s, stripping him of his citizenship in 1994 for agitating against the monarchy.

He said those being detained included some inside the kingdom and others who arrived from outside.

Prince Ahmed did not cite figures, but last month Saudi Arabia said the kingdom had questioned more than 2,000 individuals in connection with the U.S. war on terrorism - many of them former Islamic fighters against the Soviets in Afghanistan in the 1980s and fighters in Bosnia and Chechnya. Adel al-Jubeir, Saudi foreign policy adviser in Washington, said then about 100 suspects were detained for questioning.

Prince Ahmed said that many of the Saudis held at a U.S. detention center in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, over suspected links to bin Laden's al-Qaida terror network were innocent.

The kingdom says 125 Saudis are held at Guantanamo Bay. It took five months for Saudi Arabia to acknowledge that 15 of the 19 Sept. 11 hijackers were Saudis. Bin Laden's al-Qaida network is blamed for the attacks.
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