An attempt to assassinate
A suicide bomber posing as a repentant militant failed to kill Prince Mohammed bin Nayef at his Jeddah office on Thursday in the first known attack on a Saudi royal since al Qaeda began a bloody campaign in the world’s top oil exporter in 2003, Reuters reports in a new analysis.
“If it had been successful, it would have been an incredibly significant propaganda victory for al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP),” said Christopher Boucek, an associate of the Carnegie Middle East Programme. “But it’s not on the level of sophistication seen in previous multiple, coordinated attacks.”
The Saudi and Yemeni branches of al Qaeda merged early this year to form AQAP. They regrouped in
AQAP is led by a Yemeni, Nasser al-Wahayshi, but it named as commanders two Saudis freed from the
Although one later surrendered to the authorities, that was a setback to a scheme that has won much publicity, even though the Saudis say its successes still outweigh occasional failures.
Boucek said the rehab programme was only an adjunct to tough tactics credited with derailing al Qaeda’s campaign by 2006.
“All of those soft counter-terrorism measures were only possible because of the hard security victories that were achieved earlier on,” he said. “This (attack) is only going to reinvigorate those continuing hard security efforts.”
The attack on Prince Mohammed, a son of the interior minister, Prince Nayef bin Abdul-Aziz, who is seen as next in line to be named crown prince, was claimed by AQAP and may have been a gambit to show muscle behind its ambitious rhetoric.
“The group is now aiming to meet the goal of regional reach that it has set for itself,” said Gregory Johnsen, a Princeton University analyst, arguing that a months-long lull in AQAP violence indicated consolidation and planning, not inaction.
Earlier this month Saudi authorities announced the arrest of 44 militants and the seizure of explosives, detonators and guns.
In April the Saudis said they had intercepted 11 militants with arms caches near the Yemeni border.
Saudi officials fret that militants are finding refuge in lawless swathes of
“We can’t say for sure yet that there is a direct connection between
Saudi concern about
“We worry about
She said the
Foreign Minister Abubakir al-Qirbi told Reuters this month that
President Ali Abdullah Saleh has in the past sometimes co-opted Islamist militants, notably those who returned from
Poverty and corruption in
“Al Qaeda’s ideological messages have very little resonance here, but you can radicalise people around a sense of injustice,” said a Western diplomat in Sanaa. Militants have attacked tourists, foreign embassies and government targets in recent years, hurting tourism and efforts to lure investment to a country dependent on dwindling oil.
Yemeni government officials frequently accuse Western embassies and media of exaggerating the security threat, but analysts such as Carnegie’s Johnsen suggest they are in denial.
“One surprising thing is almost a refusal to acknowledge that al Qaeda is a local problem, not something imported from