Friday, August 28, 2009

Saudi royal survives attack claimed by Qaeda

* Bomber was wanted militant
* First member of royal family to be targeted by al Qaeda

RIYADH (Aug 28, 2009): A senior member of Saudi Arabia's royal family who is in charge of the kingdom's anti-terrorist campaign has survived a suicide attack by an al Qaeda-linked group.

State news agency SPA said Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, deputy interior minister in charge of security and son of the man thought likely to be the next crown prince, was meeting well-wishers on Thursday when a man blew himself up with explosives.

The attack was the first to directly target a member of the royal family since the start of a wave of violence by al Qaeda sympathisers in 2003 against the U.S.-allied monarchy.

As security chief for the kingdom, Prince Mohammed has been credited with the government's recent success in crushing the violence, which included training by Western security forces and rehabilitation of ex-militants.

The suicide bomber was a wanted militant who had insisted on meeting the prince to announce he was giving himself up to authorities, SPA said. Royals in Saudi Arabia are obliged to receive visitors during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

SPA said the bomber, whom it did not name, was the only casualty. The attack took place in Prince Mohammed's private office in the Red Sea port of Jeddah.

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the Saudi arm of the group, claimed responsibility for the attack, according to a message posted on Islamist internet forums and translated by SITE Intelligence Group.

Saudi-owned al Arabiya television showed Prince Mohammed, apparently slightly injured, meeting King Abdullah later.

"This will only increase our determination to eradicate this (militancy)," said Prince Mohammed, who is the son of Interior Minister Prince Nayef bin Abdul-Aziz, recently named second deputy crown prince.

Earlier this month, Saudi authorities announced the arrest of 44 militants close to al Qaeda and the seizure of explosives, detonators and firearms.

In 2004, militants rammed a vehicle laden with explosives into the entrance of the Interior Ministry headquarters in the capital Riyadh. -- Reuters