DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – The suspected leader of Al Qaeda (search) in Saudi Arabia praised last weekend's terrorist attack that killed 22 people and the effect it had on oil prices, according to a statement he purportedly posted on the Internet.
Abdulaziz Issa Abdul-Mohsin al-Moqrin (search) said the attack, in which Islamic militants stormed a Khobar resort and killed mostly foreign oil workers, was carried out by the "Jerusalem Squad" and amounted to a "new victory."
His statement appeared in an online periodical that seems to be linked to Al Qaeda. It was dated Thursday and carried by an Islamic Web site that frequently runs militants' statements.
The same online forum carried a statement purported to be from the leader of the attack, who said he was appointed by al-Moqrin to head the Jerusalem Squad and gave details of the operation.
The authenticity of the two statements could not be verified.
In his statement, al-Moqrin commented on several recent attacks in Saudi Arabia, but it was unclear whether he was claiming responsibility for them. On May 14, he purportedly wrote a Web site statement in which he said Al Qaeda relies on cells in Saudi Arabia that function without "organizational cohesion."
The latest statement claims the Khobar (search) attack dealt the Saudi government a number of setbacks.
"One of them is that the oil prices soared to $42 (per barrel), the highest figure in oil history," it said. "This irks the malicious government that is committed to guaranteeing America's prosperity and the continuation of the oil flow at the cheapest prices."
In a statement allegedly from al-Moqrin on May 30, the day the overnight attack ended, he criticized the Saudi government for selling oil too cheaply to America.
Most of the victims of the Khobar attack were foreign workers in the oil industry. The attack raised fears that the flow of Saudi oil could be disrupted, and contributed to market anxiety that saw the price for U.S. crude for July delivery reach $42.33 a barrel on Tuesday — the highest price on the futures market at the New York Mercantile Exchange.
The latest statement took issue with the Saudi version of the Khobar attack on several points. It alleged U.S. Marines helped the Saudi security forces — a claim the Saudis have denied.
It also said the militants did not shoot the youngest victim, a 10-year-old Egyptian boy. It claimed he was killed by "soldiers of the tyrant who killed him through their random, confused shooting." It said the gunmen would not hurt Muslims.
The 22 victims included at least four Muslims — the Egyptian boy and three Saudis. The statement did not mention the slain Saudis.
The same Web site carried an interview with Fawaz bin Mohammed al-Nashmi, who said he was assigned by Abu Hajar — an alias of al-Moqrin — to lead the group.
He gave chilling details of the killing of Westerners, including dragging the body of a British victim behind a car and slitting the throat of a Swede.
All the Muslims in the compound were secured on one floor "to keep them away" from the shooting of Saudi forces, while all the Westerners were killed, he said.
Al-Nashmi claimed they escaped from the compound by jumping from a high wall, "something they (security) would have never thought we could have pulled off." By the time Saudi security were offloading commandos from helicopters on top of the building, "we were long gone," he said.
Al-Moqrin praised the May 1 attack in the western Saudi city of Yanbu that killed five Westerners and a Saudi, as well as the May 22 shooting of a German outside a Riyadh bank.
Al-Moqrin also applauded what he said was the killing of two U.S. soldiers in Riyadh on Wednesday. An earlier Web statement, purportedly from Al Qaeda, made the same claim.
But U.S. and Saudi officials say militants shot at two American military personnel, but missed them and wounded their Saudi driver.
Al-Moqrin heads a Saudi list of most-wanted militants. The Saudis believe he was responsible for the Nov. 8 homicide bombing of a Riyadh housing compound that killed 17 people, including the assailants.