First Published: 2009-01-27

Saudi defends its Soft Counterterrorism Strategy

Riyadh hails success of program to rehabilitate repentant jihadis despite return of Saudi citizen to Al-Qaedas ranks.


Middle East Online

By Habib Trabelsi - PARIS

Ex-jihadists repenting on television

The Saudi authorities defend their rehabilitation program of ex-jihadis, or "Soft Counterterrorism Strategy", despite the return of a Saudi citizen to Al Qaedas ranks - an ex-Guantanamo prisoner who has undergone brainwashing in a rehabilitation center of "lost" repentants.

"The program 'Mounasaha' (coaching) has succeeded in 80 or 90% to rehabilitate ex-detainees in Guantanamo Bay and prisons in Iraq in addition to the lost (i.e. members of the Saudi branch of Al-Qaeda in Saudi phraseology) held in the kingdom," said an official of the Saudi Interior Ministry.

According to the official, quoted Sunday by the local press, 109 Saudis have been transferred, from the US detention camp in Guantanamo (Cuba) where 140 Saudis had been imprisoned since 2001, to the kingdom where they have undergone a rehabilitation program."

Rehabilitation center or earthly paradise with "virgins" as bonus

The official listed "the efforts" made by the Saudi government to put these repentant jihadis back on track.

"The state has provided all the moral and material support to these repentants" in the five rehabilitation centers which were created in 2003 and hosted more than 3,200 patients surrounded by a hundred specialists, including psychotherapists and theologians.

"Some of them have even tied the knot at the expense of the State which is also in charge of paying a monthly salary to someone who is jobless while waiting to be reintegrated into the active life," added the official.

According to local press, this program has already cost the government tens of millions of dollars. In addition to housing conditions, worthy of a luxury hotel, the ex-jihadist patient gets an apartment, a car worth $ 30,000 on his leave.

Shihri and Awfi, two false repentants

All former Guantanamo detainees have been reintegrated into society. Most of them are married. Some occupy public jobs, others work in the private sector. Others went back to university. Only two: Said Ali al-Shihri and Mohammed Al-Awfi who joined Al-Qaeda, the official stressed.

Shihri was released in November 2007 from Guantanamo where he was held since 2001. Having received a "good" religious training in a rehabilitation center in Saudi Arabia where he had tasted the pleasures of marriage, he preferred to return to the bush ... in Yemen.

The Saudi, renamed Abu Sayyaf Al-Shihri, said in an online video on Islamist websites he had sworn allegiance to the Yemeni Abu Bassir Nasser Al-Wahishi, the former secretary of Osama bin Laden, and actually the "emir of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula."

A promotion that plays into the hands of Republicans!

Shihri was promoted Number 2 of the terrorist group, now based in Yemen after the noose was tightened on the networks Saudi branch.

Shihri has already begun to get ready for the fray in Yemen where he is involved in an attack which targeted the US embassy in Sanaa last September (16 dead, including 6 attackers).

"The ink of the signature made by the new American president Barak Obama (January 22), ordering the closure of the Guantanamo prison, has not yet dried," a Saudi expert in Islamist groups told Saudiwave.

This will bring grist to the mill of Republicans who strongly criticized the (Guantanamo) decision taken by the new Democrat president," added the expert who requested anonymity.

Saudi provides the evil and the remedy

"This should not call into question Saudi Arabias program - known in the West as 'Soft Counterterrorism Strategy '- which was adopted by many countries including the United States who have applied it to Arab and Muslim prisoners in their prisons in Iraq," said the expert.

Many Saudis, speaking via print or electronic media, were glad that their country, the birthplace of Wahhabism, a masterpiece of anti-communist jihad of the 1980s and which provided the largest contingent of suicide bombers on September 11, 2001, is now giving lessons in fighting terrorism.

"It is a great pleasure to see big countries, such as the United States and Britain and other Arab and Muslim countries, copying from the country of the two Haramain," hailed Ali Al-Doussari.

Yemen: Home rehabilitation

Yemen, whose nationals constitute nearly half of the 245 prisoners who are still held in Guantanamo Bay, also intends to implement the Saudi recipe, but on its territory, said The Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh on Saturday.

According to Saleh, the country will receive in the next three months 94 Yemenis who are being held at Guantanamo.

Our government has asked the US to extradite Yemeni detainees. The previous US administration argued that it will extradite them to Saudi Arabia in order to rehabilitate them.

But, we have rejected this proposal because we will establish a rehabilitation center in Yemen, Saleh added.

Burnt child dreads the fire

Saleh, however, promised to ensure that the detainees will not escape to join terrorist groups.

In February 2006, twenty-three detainees escaped from the high-security prison in Sanaa. Among them was Jamal al-Badaoui, considered the mastermind of the attack against the American destroyer USS Cole in Aden in October 2000 which killed 17 US sailors.

Among the fugitives, was also the same Nasser Al-Wahishi, then in command of the "Brigades of Yemen," the new version of Al-Qaeda in Yemen before its recent merger with the Saudi branch of the terror network.

Translated by Dr. Saad Guerraoui, Senior Editor at Middle East Online


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