JEDDAH, 23 May 2007 — Eight Al-Qaeda militants including five Saudis, two Chadians and an Egyptian — who were part of the Khalediya Apartment Terror Cell in Makkah — have confessed that they were plotting to storm Jeddah’s Ruwais Prison to free fellow Al-Qaeda members.
Saudi Arabian Television Channel One aired confessions of the eight last night during a program entitled “Shaqqat (Apartment) Khalediya.” The program was prepared in collaboration with the Interior Ministry to mobilize public opinion against the terrorist organizations and their supporters. In recent years, Saudis have come out in force openly condemning terrorism and terrorists, and have offered their support to the Kingdom’s security forces in their campaign against the menace.
Police raided the Khalediya apartment on June 14, 2003 in order to foil the cell’s terrorist designs and plans. Five wanted terrorists and two police officers were killed, and nine people, including five officers, were injured in the operation. Police came to know about the cell following triple terrorist attacks on Western housing compounds in Riyadh on May 12, 2003.
Attacking Ruwais Prison was one of the strategic objectives of Al-Qaeda in the Kingdom, as they sought to release some of its members. The Interior Ministry had reinforced security around the prison to prevent terrorists from breaking into the facility. One of the seven cells that were dismantled during the past three months was also planning to storm the prison. Last December, two security officers were killed near the prison when unidentified gunmen shot at them from a nearby building.
Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah has reiterated the Kingdom’s determination to stamp out terrorism in the country. He commended security forces for their efforts to defeat terrorists and paid tributes to officers killed in gunbattles with militants. “We’ll never forget you. Your sacrifices will remain in our memory forever. You are an important part of us and our history,” the king said.
Last week, Saudi TV aired a similar program when two arrested terror suspects confessed that the Al-Qaeda network had plans to carry out massive terrorist operations on oil facilities in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates, on the scale of the 9/11 attacks.
Abdullah Al-Muqrin, one of the militants who were involved in planning the foiled attack on the Abqaiq oil refinery on Feb. 24, 2006, said militants, on the directives of Al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden, carried out the suicide bombing. “Targeting the main oil facilities and areas, such as Ras Tanura and Jubail, was how the idea started,” said Muqrin in his confession.
Late last month, police said that they had arrested 172 militants from seven terrorist cells in a monthlong operation — one of the biggest terror sweeps in the country. Saudi Arabia has won international praise for its successful campaign against Al-Qaeda militants after it carried out a series of anti-terror operations across the country, killing and arresting many terrorists and their sympathizers.
Saud Al-Musaibeeh, security adviser to the interior minister, blamed negligent families for allowing their children to be recruited by Al-Qaeda. He commended the efforts of Islamic scholars to convince some of the arrested militants by counseling them that they are grossly mistaken in following terrorist ideologies.
Meanwhile, a high-level source said investigations of terror suspects, who were part of the Khalediya cell, have been completed and that they would shortly be transferred to court to face trial. The source said the suspects had admitted to the crimes they had committed.
According to confessions made by the eight militants, Al-Qaeda recruited young Saudis, some as young as 16, to train them to carry out terrorist attacks both in the Kingdom and abroad. Ahmed Nasser Al-Dakheel was one of the most wanted terrorists in the Kingdom and was leader of a cell. He died during a gunbattle with security forces in July 2003.
In his confession, Ziyad Siaifan said Abu Abdullah Al-Tarawri, Abu Abdullah Al-Makki and Abdul Hamid Al-Tarawi were responsible for attacking the Ruwais Prison, adding that it was one of their main projects.
“They had made preparations for the attack by keeping explosives inside a car,” said Olyan Maeed Al-Sibaihi, adding that they had a handbook on bomb making.
Al-Sibaihi, who came from Qasim, explained how they had rented an apartment in Makkah’s Khalediya district.
Aamer Al-Saedi, another militant, said it was Abdul Rahman Al-Tarawri who brought him to the apartment.
“He told me that an Islamic scholar is coming from Riyadh to conduct a Shariah course and that I should attend it,” Al-Saedi said.
Khaled Ali Taher, a Chadian militant, said Al-Qaeda recruited him to take part in jihad against Western forces in Iraq. Ali Eisa Omar, another Chadian, also admitted that he had come to Makkah with five others in order to go to Iraq for jihad.
The owner of the Khalediya apartment said he did not know what was going on inside the building.
“We did not notice any strange things. They (militants) left the house early morning and came back late at night,” said the owner’s son.
A man living in the neighborhood said some of the suspects were found wearing women’s clothing in order to give the impression that they were living with families.
Another neighbor said he had not seen any of them praying in the mosque. The imam of the nearby mosque also confirmed this.
“I have never seen these youths entering my mosque,” said the imam.
Al-Siaifan explained how Ahmed Dakheel was brainwashing youths in order to make them believe that the state as well as religious scholars in the Kingdom are infidels.
“I believed what they said and I did not argue with them because I didn’t have enough religious knowledge to do that,” Al-Saedi said.
Al-Saedi said that at one point he had decided to run away from the apartment but a group member prevented him and convinced him to stay on.
In his confession, Egyptian Muhammad Fathi Al-Sayyed said the group was planning to attack specific targets in Jeddah. He said that most members of the group including him did not know whether there would be any confrontation with security forces. According to Al-Sayyed, there were about 36 men inside the apartment aged about 30.
“They were given weapons,” he said, adding that most of the youth were seeing such weapons for the first time.
The imam commended the security officers’ bravery and their efforts to foil terrorist plots inside Makkah.
He said God Almighty would not allow anybody to attack the Holy Mosque. When the Abyssinian King Abraha came to attack the Holy Kaaba, Abdul Muttalib, the grandfather of the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “The Holy House has its Lord to protect it.”
According to a statement issued by the Interior Ministry following the operation against the Khalediya cell, the militants were preparing for an imminent terror attack. The apartment, where the terrorists were living, was “booby-trapped,” it added.
Police seized 72 locally made bombs of various sizes, in addition to several automatic rifles, guns, ammunition, communication devices, cleavers, masks and chemicals to manufacture bombs. The security officers killed in the incident were Yasser ibn Hasbullah Al-Mawlid and Fahd ibn Abdullah Wazna.