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Last Updated: Tuesday, 9 September, 2003, 07:43 GMT 08:43 UK
Saudis told to report missing sons
Bombed al-Hamra complex, Riyadh
Militant groups are active in Saudi Arabia
Authorities in Saudi Arabia have urged families to report any missing children for fear they might have be recruited by militant groups.

The Saudi Interior Ministry has placed an appeal in newspapers, along with a telephone number for relatives to inform security services of suspicious cases.

The measure is the latest step by the kingdom to try to crack down on activities by militant groups at home and improve its image abroad.

Officials in the United States have accused Saudi Arabia of not doing enough to stop terrorist groups operating on its soil since the 11 September, 2001, suicide hijackings.

Fifteen of the 19 terrorists who carried out the attacks came from Saudi Arabia.

Recruitment drive

The ministry said the government was "keen to protect its citizens and sons from being misled by suspicious groups seeking to drive them to crime and to distance them from their Islamic and moral upbringing.

"Citizens must immediately report any absence or loss of contact with children or relatives so the concerned authorities may help the family locate them before any harm occurs."

Many young Saudis have disappeared in recent years to join Osama Bin Laden's al-Qaeda network and other Islamic militant groups.

There has been a growth in activity of such groups in the kingdom, sparking clashes between armed militants and Saudi security forces.

Al-Qaeda, which is widely blamed for the 11 September, 2001, attacks, is also believed to be behind attacks on a Western housing complex in Riyadh earlier this year in which 35 people died.

About 200 suspects have been arrested since the Riyadh attacks.

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