Saudi Attack Shocks Arab World

Published November 11, 2003

| Associated Press

Images of bloodied, crying children and other victims of a terror attack in Saudi Arabia fueled outrage Tuesday in the Arab world, where many wondered how Islamic militants could justify an attack that hurt fellow Muslims.

"What crime did those innocent people commit to be killed in such a way?" columnist Saad Sonbol wrote in the Egyptian daily Al-Akhbar, condemning "criminal terrorist groups" for caring only about destabilizing the Saudi government, and not about the lives of Arabs and Muslims.

"Is all this in the quest of reform and change ... all this terrorism?" a Lebanese columnist known only as Zayyan wrote Tuesday in the Beirut newspaper An-Nahar. "Or is it (intended) to prevent reform and change?"

Saudi and U.S. officials blamed Saturday's car bombing of a housing compound in the Saudi capital of Riyadh (search) on the Al Qaeda Islamic terror network, which opposes both the United States and the Saudi ruling family.

"If any good can come of such horror ... it is surely that no one who now hears the name Al Qaeda will have any image in their mind other than one which truly reflects what the organization stands for: Innocent men and women being rushed to hospital dripping blood or trying to comfort their terrified children," the Saudi newspaper Arab News said in an editorial Tuesday.

The targeted foreign workers' compound was widely known to have a predominantly Lebanese population. At least 13 of the 17 killed Saturday were Arabs, including seven from Lebanon and others from Egypt and Sudan. Four were unidentified. Five of the dead were children.

Another 122 people were injured, including a few Americans, but most of them Arab.

In the first claim of responsibility, a purported Al Qaeda operative was quoted by an Arab newspaper Tuesday as saying Al Qaeda believes that "working with Americans and mixing with them" was forbidden.

Arabs were left with a sense no one was safe. Saturday's attackers "are terrorists who don't differentiate between religions and nationalities," said Ahmed Chammat, Lebanon's ambassador to Saudi Arabia.

Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri (search) said attacks such as Saturday's "are the work of the enemies of both religion and humanity."

Some condemned extremists for cloaking their violence in religious rhetoric. Saleh al-Fauzan, a member of Saudi Arabia's senior clerics committee, told Saudi radio the attacks violated "the sanctity" of Islam.

In a statement, the secretary-general of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (search) said they harmed the image of Muslims and Islam. Jordan's King Abdullah II agreed, saying in a statement that such acts contradict "the reality of the religion and its noble principles."

Others said that along with their religion, causes close to the hearts of many Arabs could be damaged.

The Saudi bombing "mixes right and wrong and black and white and mixes the image of the terrorist Muslim Arab with the real resistance actions in Palestine and Iraq," wrote Jordanian columnist Bassem Sakijha in Jordan's Ad-Dustour newspaper.

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