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Saudi royal family 'in complete panic' during recent riots
MID-EAST REALITIES - www.MiddleEast.Org - Washington - January 6, 2002: ABU DHABI – Special to World Tribume, 3/01/02:
Saudi Arabia is downplaying reports of widespead rioting last month but diplomatic sources said the nation was rocked by the worst Islamic unrest in years.
The Saudi government as well as Western diplomatic sources have confirmed reports of massive riots by fundamentalists who attacked foreigners and Saudi families.
The fundamentalists destroyed property and even voiced calls against the regime for what they asserted was its refusal to abide by Islamic principles.
A diplomatic source said the riot in Jedda was assessed to have been aimed directly at the regime. Several leading members of the royal family were in the port city during the Muslim holiday when several thousand fundamentalists took to the street.
"The riot was organized and came within one step of being an actual attack on the royal family," the source said. "The family was in complete panic."
In Jedda, fundamentalists attacked women and families along the beach as well as on the main thoroughfare. The militants also blocked traffic, smashed windows and cars, including that of a police vehicle.
Police were unable to stop the violence. The sources said most of the militants escaped when security forces arrived.
Two Saudi princes were among the 300 people arrested, the sources said. They said Saudi police had refused to arrest the princes until they were ordered to by senior commanders.
The worst rioting took place in Jedda during last month's Id El Fitr holiday. But other cities, including Dammam, were also sources of unrest. Diplomatic sources said the fundamentalist violence – linked to Osama Bin Laden – has alarmed the regime. Saudi officials and newspapers have confirmed the riots, but attributed them to unidentified young people.
"This is the second year in a row that young men have been the cause of trouble during Id," Raid Qusti reported in the Riyad-based Arab News. "Have authorities and officials done anything about it since last year? Were measures taken this year to prevent such things from happening again? No. Not a thing was done."
In Kharj, a Saudi police officer was shot dead in broad daylight on Dec. 29. A suspect has been arrested, but Saudi authorities would not disclose the motive of the killing. Saudi sources said the motive appeared political.
In Dammam, a city with a large foreign community, Islamic militants stopped cars and assaulted the women or foreigners inside. Islamic fundamentalists have opposed women driving by themselves without first-degree male relatives serving as escorts.
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