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Last Updated: Tuesday, 25 November, 2003, 16:37 GMT
Saudis urged to shun extremists
Saudi policeman walks past mangled car and bicycle debris from Riyadh bombing
Ordinary Saudis were shocked by the Riyadh bombing
Saudi Arabia's top religious leader has urged people to reject extremism and unify behind the country's leaders.

Sheikh Abdulaziz bin Abdullah al-Sheikh said suicide bombers threatened the unity of Saudi Arabia.

"God intended for Muslims to be a moderate and tolerant people and not inclined to extremism," the grand mufti said to mark the end of Ramadan.

Suicide bombers have struck the kingdom twice in the last six months, killing more than 50 people, including bombers.

Saudi authorities have clamped down heavily on suspected militants since the first attacks in May.

We are in dire need of unifying our ranks and voices and supporting our leadership against those who threaten our religion, security, resources and stability
Sheikh Abdulaziz bin Abdullah al-Sheikh, Saudi grand mufti
The ailing King Fahd and the de facto ruler, Crown Prince Abdullah, issued a joint statement on Monday calling on Muslims to unite against terrorism.

The grand mufti articulated a similar message.

"Today we are in dire need of unifying our ranks and voices and supporting our leadership against those who threaten our religion, security, resources and stability," he said at dawn prayers in Riyadh.

Repentance

His comments came a week after a cleric well known for his hardline views repented on national television.

Sheikh Ali al-Khudair said last Tuesday he had withdrawn his support for Islamic militants suspected of having links with al-Qaeda.

Sheikh Ali al-Khudair
Sheikh al-Khudair condemned the Riyadh bombing
He condemned the recent bomb attack on a residential compound in the capital, Riyadh, which left 18 dead and over 100 wounded - most of them Arabs from outside the country.

Sheikh Ali al-Khudair was arrested earlier this year for supporting Islamic extremists.

Ordinary Saudis were shocked by the fact that the casualties in November's Riyadh bombing were Muslims, including women and children, the BBC Middle East analyst Roger Hardy says.

If the bombers were linked to al-Qaeda, as many suspect, then the group may have alienated some of those who had been sympathetic to it in the past.

But at the same time support for the militants among radical Islamists seems well-rooted, and there is a widely shared perception that the ruling princes are too closely tied to America and unwilling to embark on serious reform, our correspondent says.


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