Saudi prince survives bid on life

An al-Qaeda-linked group claims responsibility for the suicide attack

Mohammed Bin Nayef. AFP

State news agency SPA said Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, the deputy interior minister and son of the man thought likely to be the next crown prince, was meeting well-wishers on Thursday when a man blew himself in the prince’s private office. The prince, however, was not seriously hurt. 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 US-allied monarchy.

“The attack indicates that the threat is out there waiting to happen — sometimes at closer range than you would think,” said one Western diplomat in Saudi, who declined to be named. The royals will have plenty of reasons to worry in a country where weapons apparently find easy entry from porous borders to the north from Iraq or the south from Yemen.”  As security chief, Prince Mohammed is one of the most powerful men in the kingdom and is credited with the government’s success in crushing the violence, helped by Western training.

Rising militancy
Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest petroleum exporter and a key US ally in the Middle East, was forced to confront its own role in rising militancy at home and abroad when its nationals turned out to be behind the September 11, 2001, attacks on the US. The mastermind of those attacks, al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, was born in Saudi Arabia. Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the Saudi arm of the group, claimed responsibility for Thursday’s bombing attempt, according to a message posted on Islamist internet forums and translated by the SITE Intelligence Group.

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. The incident serves to underscore the possibility of attacks in the kingdom itself. Saudi officials have expressed concern that the neighbouring Yemen, embroiled in a conflict that has claimed hundreds of lives, could become a staging ground.

Saudi officials worry that militants returning from wars in Iraq or Afghanistan or slipping across the porous border to Yemen may bring with them fighting experience and tactical knowledge of weapons or explosives.

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