RIYADH, 15 January 2003 — The Kingdom will never fight Islamic trends or prevent holy struggle in God’s name, but is detaining a number of citizens as part of efforts to track Al-Qaeda members and protect its people, Deputy Minister of Interior Prince Ahmed said in remarks published yesterday.
“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,” Prince Ahmed said, according to the Okaz newspaper.
Since the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States, the Kingdom 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 money contributed to such charities was being used to support extremist groups — a claim denied by the charity officials, 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-Qaeda. It was, he said, motivated by “the Kingdom’s desire to preserve its citizens from destructive discussions.” He did not elaborate.
Prince Ahmed said those being detained included some inside the Kingdom and others who arrived from outside.
He did not cite figures, but last month officials said the Kingdom had questioned more than 2,000 individuals in connection with the US war on terrorism — many of them former 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 US detention center in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, over suspected links to Al-Qaeda network were innocent. The Kingdom has said that 125 Saudis are held at Guantanamo Bay. (AP)