INTERNATIONAL

Al-Qaeda aims to topple Saudi Govt.: Armitage

MANAMA Nov. 10 . A day after the deadly bombing of a Riyadh residential compound by suspected Al-Qaeda extremists, there has been wide speculation in the region on the purpose of the attack, in which 17 persons were killed and scores injured.

Many in Saudi Arabia believe that the attack was meant to destabilise the kingdom, the largest producer of oil in the world. A Saudi analyst, Dawood al-Shirian, said the attacks were an expression of "a war on the regime, a war to turn the country into a new Afghanistan rule by a Saudi-style Taliban." In comments quoted in the Lebanese English daily, The Daily Star, Mr. Al- Shirian said that the attackers "do not want to kill Westerners. What they really want is to subvert the ruling establishment here and attain power."

The visiting U.S. Deputy Secretary of State, Richard Armitage, expressed similar sentiments. "It is quite clear to me that Al-Qaeda wants to take down the royal family and the Government of Saudi Arabia," Mr. Armitage told Al Arabiya television, excerpts of which were broadcast on Monday. At a press conference, Mr. Armitage pledged that the U.S. was ready to fully participate in countering the extremist menace, "if that is the desire of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia." In the past, senior functionaries of the Bush administration have been quoted as saying that Saudi cooperation in countering international terrorism has been deficient.

While acknowledging that the attackers wished to carry out a political agenda, some analysts said the extremist activity in Saudi Arabia was a response to the political situation in the kingdom. Abdullah al-Hamed, an Islamist activist was quoted in The Daily Star as saying that, "When people are not permitted to express their disagreement through peaceful means such as demonstrations, some are ready to rebel and resort to violence." Many commentators in the region have said that one of the objectives of the extremists was to undermine the Saudi economy by scaring away skilled expatriate workers.

An editorial in The Gulf Today, an English daily from the United Arab Emirates, said the attackers, "by targeting foreigners, hoped to undermine the economy of the country which is home to six million expatriate workers."

The ghastly midnight killings on Saturday have been met with widespread condemnation throughout West Asia. Saudi Arabia's Okaz daily said, "What happened in the residential compound... can only be described as aggression against religion, ethics and humanity." Qatar's Al-Rayah newspaper said, "The targeting of a residential area, which shelters families of Arab and Saudi nationals, has nothing in common with the jihad slogan under which radical fundamentalist groups, which carry out such terrorist acts, operate."

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