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Last Updated: Thursday, 24 June, 2004, 03:20 GMT 04:20 UK
Saudis offer militants amnesty
Saudi road block
Saudis say Muqrin's slaying has weakened al-Qaeda
Saudi Arabia has offered terror suspects a limited amnesty, telling them to surrender within a month or face the "full might" of the law.

A statement read out on state TV on behalf of King Fahd said the offer would cover anyone who had "committed a crime in the name of religion".

"Those who turn themselves in voluntarily... will be treated according to God's law," it said.

The move follows the killing of al-Qaeda's leader in Saudi Arabia.

Abdul Aziz al-Muqrin died in a shoot-out in the capital Riyadh on Friday during a police search for him and his associates.

Spate of attacks

They were wanted for the beheading of a US engineer, Paul Johnson.

We announce, for the last time, that we open the doors of forgiveness...to all those who deviated from the right path

There has been a series of suicide bombings in Saudi Arabia over the last year, and militants have recently taken to kidnapping foreigners.

Saudi rulers have launched a crackdown on Islamic militants, leading to sieges and gun battles in Riyadh and elsewhere.

Wednesday's statement offering amnesty was read out by the de facto ruler, Crown Prince Abdullah.

He said that after the month was up, "We swear by God that nothing will prevent us from striking with our full might, which we derive from relying on God."

The BBC's Heba Saleh says the wording is vague, but Saudi lawyers say it suggests that the state would show leniency or even forgiveness to those who gave themselves up.

Al-Qaeda 'weakened'

However, under Sharia law, anyone who commits violence against another person would still have to be pardoned and pay compensation to the victim's family to avoid punishment.

Our correspondent says the Saudi government probably feels it is acting from a strong position - it has said killing Muqrin has substantially weakened al-Qaeda in the country.

The amnesty appears to be aimed at low-level al-Qaeda militants, and seems unlikely to tempt senior leaders, she adds.

The BBC's Dominc Hughes
"This amnesty looks like the prelude to further tough action"

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