General Mansur Al-Turki, spokesperson of Saudi Arabia’s Interior Ministry of Security, announced at a press conference that over the last eight months that Saudi Arabia has captured and imprisoned 149 sleeper cell militants. They may be the largest personal lost Al Qaeda has suffered since America invaded Afghanistan.
Who and What was Captured?
There were nineteen sleeper cells who were captured; ten were independent sleeper cells, a four cell group, a three cell group, and a two cell group.
The independents generally had closer ties directly to Osama Bin Ladin and the Yemen Branch of Al Qaeda, better known as AQAP. These cells focused primarily on manufacturer explosives, distributing those explosives, and training militants in the construction of bombs. Their bombs were going to be involved in planned attacks on numerous security and military facilities across Saudi Arabia. The majority of their recruits were young male teenagers, on holy pilgrimages to Mecca. They were militarized and radicalized by the extremist ideology of Al Qaeda. Boys like these wayward youth make of the majority of the soldiers that fight for branches of Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen.
The largest group of had four cells and forty-one terrorists. They had numerous ties to AQAP in Yemen; the spokesperson announced they had terrorism plots in the advanced stages. The terrorists focused on targeting security officers and security facilities like checkpoints and police stations. This high coordinated and very advanced branch of Al Qaeda was captured with a small arsenal of weapons, mostly AK-47’s and RPGs, and dozens of laptops. It is speculated that this group posed the largest threat to the stability of the Saudi Arabian government.
The second largest group had three cells and twenty-four terrorists. Chiefly they planned to target military complexes such as air strips and small military bases. They also had planned to assassinate key personal in the high levels of government and the media, both domestic and international. They targeted journalists, hoping to eliminate non Al Qaeda oriented opinions in Saudi Arabia, posing the largest known threat to the media in the Middle East.
The smallest coordinated group had only two cells and sixteen members. Unlike the other seventeen cells these terrorists focused on financially funding other branches of Al Qaeda. They helped quarterback the gathering of 2.24 million Saudi riyals, worth roughly $600,00 US dollars. These funds were to be used to arm and support the militants in Yemen and Somalia. Funds were gathered by the terrorists; they deceived donors, claiming that the funds would go to help Muslims in poor countries.
What Affects Will this Have on Al Qaeda?
Capturing nearly a hundred and fifty militants will severely injure Al Qaeda on the Arabian peninsula and may lead to more exposed sleeper cells internationally. Less than ten thousands men make up the total forces of Al Qaeda, perhaps as low as five thousand. By capturing a hundred and fifty terrorists Saudi Arabia has imprisoned as much as 3% of the total man power of Al Qaeda, an impressive number that rivals the total number the America has captured in its lengthy campaign in Afghanistan.
Mansur Al-Turki stated that he had already informed Interpol and Yemen Interior Security of numerous sleeper cells outside the borders of Saudi Arabia. Some of the captured terrorists were African, hinting that they discovered cells in Somalia; others were described as South Asian, so this would probably lead to exposure of cells in Indonesia, the single largest Muslin country. Capturing these men will lead to uncovering additional of sleeper cells throughout the world, twisting the dagger in th heart of Al Qaeda.
What Have We Learned About Al Qaeda?
We have gained valuable knowledge about the radical ideology of AQAP’s branch of Al Qaeda. Mansur Al-Turki announced that his officers had discovered a unified set of codes that outlines the direction AQAP will go in during the future. He stated they are actively,
-Publishing takfirist ideology*
-Facilitating the transfer of recruiting cells to troubled regions
-Carrying out criminal operations that aim to spread chaos around the world
-Destabilizing security in Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and the USA
-Raising funds to support Al Qaeda, both at home and abroad
(* Takfirist ideology is a radical Al Qaeda and Taliban creed that has moves away from traditional Muslim beliefs and openly encouraged terrorism. It is denoucned by the vast majority of Muslims.)
While this initial finding may appear worthless, addition information coupled with this known ideology can help authorities locate where future terrorists activities will take place. This finding may someday save innocent lives.
An addition there was evidence supporting that Al Qaeda is moving towards further isolating the sleeper cells. Up until this point they have favored groups of sleepers cells, as many as ten connected cells. The large number of cells made it easier for each group to act effectively and independently, while it did threaten security. This new system means that each job is further compartmentalized, breaching one cell will not bring down an entire operation like it did in this latest incident. Authorities will have to capture coordinators, men who organize large groups of cells and start new ones, in order to find large numbers of cells. This gives the individual cells more security and more independence while limiting their power. This will lead to numerous ineffective smaller terrorism events internationally, there will be more attacks but they will each do far less damage.
Questions to Ask our Allies:
Of the 149 militants there was only one women, who was imprisoned for posting “Al Qaeda Ideology” on the internet. She has recently been released into the custody of her family. This is not unheard of, there have been precedents of so-called terrorists being released into the custody of their families. On follow up interviews these alleged terrorists generally only had tenuous links to Al Qaeda at best, some were swindled into supporting terrorism while others were merely in the wrong place at the wrong time. In some circumstances these “terrorists” were almost certainly imprisoned so that the government could gain leverage over important unruly subjects. She was convicted of posting “Al Qaeda Ideology” on the Internet, but there has been no evidence to support this and they later released her after a short scare.
America and the European Union should congratulate and support Saudi Arabia in their sleeper cell bust, however they must also recognize that these numbers might be inflated with political prisoners. Saudi Arabia has a checkered past concerning political prisoners, they have done it in the past but recently they have either stopped the illegal incarceration of innocents or have gotten better at covering it up.
America and the European Union should help Saudi Arabia, it is the best way to eliminate the real terrorists, but they also must pressure Saudi Arabia to stop using the threat of terrorism to eliminate political opponents of King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz, who currently rules Saudi Arabia. Stabilization of the Middle East, by eliminating unethical practices, is the best way to defeat Al Qaeda, who public support just to survive. Destroy that support and Al Qaeda will be crushed under the wrath of the common man.
Sources: AAWSAT, GlobalPost, and TheHindu.