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Last Updated: Sunday, 17 August, 2003, 03:50 GMT 04:50 UK
Saudi clerics condemn terrorism
Debris of the Al-Hamra compound following an explosion in Riyadh, 13 May 2003
Triple suicide bombings in May were directed against Westerners
Leading clerics in Saudi Arabia have issued a religious ruling, or fatwa, saying that terror attacks by Islamic extremists are "serious criminal acts".

The Council of Senior Clerics said it fully backed the Saudi authorities in their campaign against those who were carrying out acts of sabotage, bombing and murder in the country.

We must rally around the leadership of this country
Council of Senior Clerics
It said those who claimed that such activities were part of a holy war were "ignorant and misguided".

"These acts have nothing to do with jihad for the sake of God," said the council, which is headed by the kingdom's highest religious authority, Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul-Aziz al-Sheikh.

It also said those who assisted or sheltered the extremists were guilty of "great sin".

"We must rally around the leadership of this country and its scholars, especially in this time of dissent," the council said.

On Thursday, Crown Prince Abdullah urged all Saudi citizens to be "the eye, ear and hand" of the security forces in its campaign against extremists.

Saudi Arabia has been tightening security since triple suicide attacks on Western targets in Riyadh on 12 May killed 35 people, including nine attackers.

The government had faced accusations from Washington that it was not doing enough to combat terrorism.

Since the attacks - which Washington and Riyadh blame on Saudi-born Osama Bin Laden's al-Qaeda network, Saudi security forces have arrested about 200 suspected militants across the country and killed about 12.

Several shootouts have taken place in which security forces have also been killed or wounded.

Fifteen of the 11 September 2001 hijackers were originally from Saudi Arabia.

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