If it is confirmed that two leading figures — Saud Al-Otaibi (Saudi) and Abdul Kareem Al-Majati (Moroccan) — from among the 26 announced wanted terrorists in the Kingdom were killed in Al-Rass, then that may mean a huge change in the status of the terrorist organization in the Gulf and might put an end to what was once an organized group.
In fact, Al-Otaibi has been known as one of the ideologues of the so-called Al-Qaeda organization in the Arabian Peninsula. He has been running the media battle on the Internet and writing articles encouraging his followers to fight and attack the government and foreigners in the Kingdom.
Al-Otaibi has also been leading the organization as No. 2 man along with Al-Oufi — the latest leader of Al-Qaeda in the Kingdom. Due to the fact that he is one of the oldest in the organization — he is 33 — Al-Otaibi was recognized as a major leader after the death of Issa Oushin in Riyadh on July 20 last year and the capture in Abha on Aug. 5 of Faris Al-Zahrani.
As the No. 1 spokesman of Al-Qaeda in the Kingdom through the organization’s two electronic magazines, Nashrat Al-Battar and Sawt Al-Jihad, and because he belonged to one of the largest and best known families in the Kingdom, it was expected that Al-Otaibi would be a leading figure in the organization. In the past two years, Al-Qaeda had three ideologues, Faris Al-Zahrani, Issa Al-Oushin and Abdullah Al-Rashood, who played the role of the organization’s official scholars. Al-Rashood is known as an aggressive spokesman who has several times verbally attacked Saudi religious scholars in their presence and blasted them for what he called silence regarding the truth. Al-Rashood is believed to be still at large.
Although Al-Otaibi was in the second line of the ideologues and theorists, he was still active and helped encourage and motivate his followers to carry out some attacks. For the organization, losing Al-Otaibi means losing a man who was adept at misleading young men who lack experience and religious background. The magazines were the guidebooks for the scattered cells. They were the reference where the followers found explanations and justifications for the killings and attacks — justifications that were supported with words, quotations and verses from the Qur’an and Hadith that were misused and put there to mislead.
Leaving the organization with only Al-Rashood as the religious ideologue, we can say that the religious pump that motivates the team and justifies its acts to the young followers is dying. Unless Al-Qaeda manages to recruit new scholars or ideologues — which is almost next to impossible — it will lose many of its followers, to say nothing of newcomers. Moving now to the next important terrorist who was allegedly killed, Al-Majati is regarded as the tactical player, the thinker of the organization. With great experience in combat and with a good background in maneuvering, Al-Majati is thought to be the planner of a number of attacks in the Kingdom as well as the attack at Casablanca in Morocco in May 2003 and he is accused of involvement in the Madrid bombing last March.
As the son of a French mother and the husband of an American woman, Al-Majati works with his combined Western and Arab mind.
He is said to be an expert in bomb making which goes some way to explaining how the terrorists held out for three days using only homemade weapons and bombs.
If the reports are true which say that Al-Oufi was also involved in the battle, then that may mean the terrorists have suffered a major defeat and had reached a low point at which they gathered together all their experts, tacticians and men for a final battle.
Though there are a number of logistic cells which may become battlefield cells whenever they are detected by the government — as was the case with the ones involved in the attack on the American Consulate in Jeddah last December, I don’t think the group can operate without a strong leader and certainly not without a religious figure who justifies their acts.
If the reports are accurate, then there are three members of Al-Qaeda from the 26 wanted men still alive. With the loss of the major thinker of the organization, Abdul Kareem Al-Majati, the major ideologue and religious spokesman and media man, Saud Al-Otaibi, and the death or capture of their leader, Saleh Al-Oufi — if he was with them — I think that this may well be the end of a chapter of terror which has lasted over two years in the Kingdom.