Trouble in the KSA

December 8th, 2006  

Topic: Trouble in the KSA

7 Dec 2006
Clashes in Jeddah reflect continued HIGH risk of terrorism

According to local media reports, Saudi security forces on 7 December clashed with suspected Islamic extremists in the Ruwais district of the western city of Jeddah and in an area close to the city’s port. Clashes between security forces and suspected extremists were also reported in the capital Riyadh.

The incidents in Jeddah and in Riyadh come amid a continuing clampdown by the security forces on Islamic extremist activity; interior ministry spokesman Mansour al-Turki on 4 December said that security forces had arrested 136 suspected militants in different cities over the past three months, including 115 Saudi nationals. Further clashes between security forces and extremists remain possible. Control Risks advises personnel to minimise their movements in both Jeddah and Riyadh and to carefully consider non-essential travel to both cities until the security incidents have concluded. Personnel are advised to exercise good situational awareness, be fully confident in their travel arrangements and minimise time spent in public places. Control Risks also advises that travel disruptions are possible in Riyadh and Jeddah as a result of the incidents. Businesses in Saudi Arabia are advised to conduct regular reviews of their security-management function.

While the clampdown by the security forces has downgraded the capabilities of domestic extremists, they continue to pose a threat to both Saudi and Western interests. Extremists aiming to weaken the legitimacy of the ruling al-Saud family and its hold on power will continue to plan and implement attacks against targets including the security forces, diplomatic missions, the oil and gas industry, foreign businesses and expatriate personnel. Personnel intending to spend less than one week in the kingdom are advised to stay in business-class hotels; those planning a longer stay should arrange secure accommodation in residential compounds. Personnel are also advised to vary their daily and weekly routines to avoid establishing discernible patterns of behaviour.

The clashes in Jeddah occurred after suspected extremists opened fire from a nearby building on a checkpoint, injuring two members of the security forces. A building in the Ruwais district located close to a prison containing a number of extremists was subsequently surrounded and a firefight ensued. Control Risks understands that while the clashes have diminished in intensity, a standoff was continuing as night fell in the city. Previously, a municipal employee on 14 November discovered eight machine guns and ammunition in a rubbish (trash) container during a routine collection in the district; the discovery occurred in an area close to the US consulate in the city that was attacked by extremists in December 2004. The discovery came after four suspected extremists on 1 August were arrested in Jeddah following a gun battle with the security forces.

Extremist activity

More than 136 militants and 150 foreign and Saudi nationals, including security personnel, have been killed in extremist attacks and in clashes between extremists and the security forces since May 2003. Most recently, security guards at the Abqaiq oil-processing facility near Dammam (Eastern Province – around 240 miles (390km) from Riyadh) on 24 February intercepted and killed four suspected extremists as they attempted to drive three vehicles packed with explosives towards the centre of the facility. Subsequently, five men believed to be linked to the cell that carried out the attack on 27 February were killed during a shoot-out in the al-Hamra district of Riyadh; interior ministry officials on 18 April announced the arrests of a further five suspects and the discovery of an explosives depot in the al-Sulai district of the capital.
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