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Last Updated: Saturday, 5 June, 2004, 14:26 GMT 15:26 UK
Saudis told to inform on plotters

By Frank Gardner
BBC security correspondent in Riyadh

Saudis hide behind a wall as they watch the recent shootout between security forces and gunmen in Khobar
Most Saudis were appalled by the recent hostage slaughter in Khobar
Saudi Arabia's highest religious authority has issued an edict calling on all Saudis to report anyone they suspect of terrorist activities.

The move follows last weekend's raid by al-Qaeda militants on the Gulf oil town of Khobar which left 22 people dead.

The edict "urges citizens and (foreign) residents to inform on anyone planning... an act of sabotage", reported the official Saudi news agency.

The edict, or fatwa, was issued by a government-backed committee.

The agency said the committee, headed by the Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul-Aziz al-Sheikh, condemned the recent attacks blamed on al-Qaeda.

It quoted the committee as urging extremists to "fear God almighty and come to their senses".

It is a sentiment likely to be shared by many in this normally peaceful country.

Most Saudis are appalled by the violent attacks on both national and western targets that have killed over 80 people in the last 12 months.

Al-Qaeda threat

But a group calling itself the al-Qaeda Organisation in the Arabian Peninsula continues to threaten more attacks and several of its members are known to be at large.

On Wednesday, a statement in its name claimed responsibility for one of the most recent attacks - that on US military advisers who were shot at while they were driving south of Riyadh.

Osama Bin Laden's original aim was to drive US forces out of Saudi Arabia, but since all but a handful left last year, al-Qaeda's aims here have broadened into attacking Western civilians and government targets.

The aims appear to be to scare Westerners into leaving and to weaken the control of the ruling al-Saud family over the country.

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