Saudis Give Terrorists Month to Surrender
JIDDAH, Saudi Arabia – Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Abdullah (search) on Wednesday reached out to Islamic militants operating in the desert kingdom, offering them limited amnesty if they turned themselves in within the next month.
Abdullah said on national television that those who cooperated would not face the death penalty and would be prosecuted only if they had hurt others.
"We are opening the door of forgiveness ... to everyone who deviated from the path of right and committed a crime in the name of religion, which is in fact a corruption on earth," he said, reading a statement on behalf of his half-brother, King Fahd (search).
The offer was open to anyone who had not yet been "arrested for carrying out terrorist acts," Abdullah added, but "we swear by God that nothing will prevent us from striking with our full might" those who do not surrender themselves.
Saudi Arabia has seen a string of fatal attacks blamed on Al Qaeda (search) and sympathizers of the anti-Western terror network. Some of the attacks targeting foreigners have been unusually brazen and gruesome.
The most recent of the attacks was the June 12 kidnapping of American engineer Paul M. Johnson, Jr. (search), whose beheading was announced six days later on the Internet.
The death penalty, usually performed as a public beheading with a sword, is common in Saudi Arabia.
Abdullah has been the day-to-day ruler of the kingdom ever since Fahd was incapacitated by a 1995 stroke.
Earlier Wednesday, Foreign Minister Prince Saud (search), another half-brother, said that calls for holy war in neighboring Iraq were illegitimate and Saudi Arabia did not permit its citizens to go fight there.
Saudi newspapers recently have published obituaries and news of funerals held by Saudi families for loved ones said to have died fighting the U.S.-led occupation in Iraq.
Also, the Arabic dialect used by a kidnapper in the videotaped beheading of South Korean hostage Kim Sun-il (search), a 33-year-old employee of a supply company in Iraq, pegged him to many Arabs as hailing from the Arabian Peninsula.
"We don't allow that," Prince Saud told reporters when asked about Saudis fighting in Iraq. "Why should people go to Iraq for a holy war? Iraq is a Muslim country and the only religious duty in Iraq should be to help the Iraqi people. Any call for holy war [in Iraq] is illegitimate."
He did not say what sort of measures are being taken to ensure Saudi militants don't go to Iraq.
Last week, a Saudi family held a funeral in the northern city of Hail, where relatives received condolences for a Saudi reportedly killed in Fallujah, Iraq.
Some Saudi followers of a prominent hard-line Saudi cleric, Sheik Saleh al-Fawzan (search), also reportedly visited Iraq, going into Fallujah recently and distributing 10,000 copies of a book al-Fawzan wrote that includes calls for holy war against Americans.
A videotape of Kim's slaying, parts of which were aired on the pan-Arab satellite station al-Jazeera, included spoken remarks from one of the militants pictured.
On Wednesday, columnist Adnan Hussein wrote in the London-based but Saudi-owned newspaper Asharq al-Awsat, that "the dialect of the commander of the group indicated he is from the Peninsula and the Gulf."
Several Saudis told The Associated Press the speaker spoke with a Saudi accent.
Foreign fighters, Saddam loyalists and radical Shiite militiamen are all fighting the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq. There are no reliable figures on how many Saudis have gone to Iraq to fight or encourage militants.
"All the state institutions stand against all those who incite or encourage terrorism. Or, even if they keep silent, Iraq is a dear country to us and we will not allow any Saudi to increase Iraq's problems. We will do all our efforts to help achieve stability in Iraq," Prince Saud said.
Of the South Korean's beheading in the name of Islam, the foreign minister said it proves "terrorism has no conscience. ...These people have no human values, they are far away from Islam."
The foreign minister referred questions about developments in the most recent terror attack in Saudi Arabia — the June 12 kidnapping Johnson — to the Interior Ministry.
Authorities were still searching for Johnson's body. The alleged mastermind of his kidnapping and many other attacks was killed in a shootout with security forces last week. Several other militants were killed, injured or arrested in what the Saudis said was a big setback to Al Qaeda in the kingdom.
"We believe that what happened was a major blow to the terrorists, but when the danger ends it will be clear," Saud said. "We will never waver. We will never stop until we have all the assurances and guarantees that it is over. ... It is important to be assured that it is crystal-clear over."
Johnson's killing was only the latest in a string of fatal attacks targeting foreigners. Prince Saud reiterated that foreign residents of the kingdom should feel assured that measures are being taken to keep them safe.
"This country will make the necessary efforts to protect [foreign] residents the same way it protects its citizens," he said.
Security measures have noticeably increased throughout the kingdom, with razor wire and high walls being erected around residential compounds and some office buildings.
In the eastern oil city of Khobar (search), where many foreigners work and where a May terror attack killed 22 people, armored personnel carriers, soldiers toting machine guns and piles of sandbags are visible outside housing compounds for Westerners.
Prince Saud was critical of U.S. policy in the Middle East, but accused it of fueling anger among Saudis rather than hatred.
"I don't think one can generalize by saying that the Saudi community hates the United States ... I think these are feelings of anger in this country, particularly in regard to injustices being perpetrated against the Palestinians," he said.
A just resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian crisis is often cited in the Arab world as the key to creating a peaceful Middle East.
Much of the anti-American sentiment in the region is fueled by the U.S. led occupation of Iraq but is rooted in Washington's close alliance with Israel, with many Arabs convinced America cannot be an honest peace broker.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.