On 16 March 2004 Khaled Ali Ali Haj and suspected militant Ibrahim bin Abdulaziz bin Mohammad al-Muzainy were killed after authorities said they were stopped by security forces and opened fire. Khaled Ali Ali Haj was heading for an undisclosed mission when he was ambushed and killed by security forces in the Saudi capital Riyadh.
Abdulaziz al-Muqrin [Abdulaziz Issa Abdul-Mohsin al-Moqrin] took over the Saudi operation after the previous leader was killed in a shootout with police in March 2004. Abd-al-Aziz al-Muqrin, defendant number one in the recently announced list of the 26 most wanted persons. Believed to be in his mid-30s, his nom de guerre is "Abu-Hajar." He trained with the Al-Qa'ida organization in Afghanistan during the period 1990-1994. Al-Muqrin transferred from Afghanistan to Algeria to fight on the side the Islamic Liberation Front (FIS) in the mid-1990s. He smuggled weapons from Spain to Algeria via Morocco. He then went to Bosnia-Herzegovina, working initially as a member of a training staff in a military camp. He was arrested and imprisoned in Somalia until he was deported to Saudi Arabia where he was imprisoned in 1999. A Saudi religious court sentenced him to four years in prison. He learned the Koran by heart, which prompted the Interior Ministry to commute his prison sentence by half.
He was released from prison in 2001, and left for Yemen and arrived in Afghanistan. According to his own account, he took part in the last of the fighting against US forces when they invaded in 2001. Then he returned to Saudi Arabia. An adviser to Saudi Arabia's ambassador to London called al-Muqrin the "toughest" in a series of perhaps a half-dozen leaders who had headed the Saudi network. Abdulaziz al-Muqrin was editor of al-Battar magazine, the al-Qaida training publication. The al-Battar sword -- the "sword of the prophets -- was taken by the prophet Muhammad as booty from the Banu Qaynaqa. The magazine's name commemorates "Al-Battar" , the alias of Sheikh Yousef Al-Ayyiri. This former an Al-Qa'ida leader in Saudi Arabia was Osama bin Laden's personal bodyguard. He was killed in 2003 in a clash with Saudi security forces.
On 14 April 2004, due to security concerns, the Department of State ordered the departure of family members and non-emergency employees of the US Embassy and Consulates in Saudi Arabia.
On 21 April 2004 a car bombing at the Directorate of Traffic in downtown Riyadh killed five people and wounded nearly 150 others.
On 28 April 2004 a statement attributed to an al-Qaida leader who is Saudi Arabia's most wanted man yesterday warned that the terrorist group intended to launch "fierce" attacks against Jews, Americans and western interests in the Middle East. The statement by Abdulaziz al-Muqrin was broadcast over the internet. He denied that al-Qaida was behind a suicide bombing in Riyadh that killed five, but applauded it as a punishment for the Saudi regime. The statement said: "The Jews, the Americans and crusaders in general will remain the targets of our coming attacks and this year, God willing, will be fiercer and harsher for them. And the apostate Saudi government will be incapable of protecting their interests or providing security for them."
The May 2004 terrorist attacks used new tactics in Al-Khobar and Yanbu attacks to directly target vital economic and government interests. These actions combined three tactical aims: undermining the power of the Saudi royal, scaring off Western workers, and attacking the world economy by driving up oil prices.
On 01 May 2004 militants in the Red Sea city of Yanbu shot and killed five Western energy workers. On May 1 beginning at about 0645 AM, a group of Arab males with automatic weapons and handguns attacked the offices of ABB Lummus Global, a contractor for Exxon/Mobil (Yanpet) in Yanbu. There were reports of an incident at the Yanbu International School at about 0745 AM with no damage reported. Staff and children had already been advised not to report to school that morning. There was also shooting reported near the Holiday Inn Hotel. The gunmen killed five Westerners, including two Americans, two Britons, and an Australian. All five worked for the energy company ABB-Lummus in the northwestern Saudi city of Yanbu. Three other company employees were wounded in the shooting. The Saudi forces were caught off guard by the attack at the Yanbu petrochemical complex. Saudi security forces reported that three of the terrorists were killed and a fourth wounded and taken into custody. Several Saudi security forces were killed and wounded in their fight with the terrorists. Afterwards, the US Government warned US citizens to defer travel to Saudi Arabia and said that private American citizens currently in Saudi Arabia are strongly urged to depart. The Embassy kept in very close touch with American citizens who are in Saudi Arabia.
On the morning of May 29, 2004, terrorist attacks were carried out against at least three Western targets in the city of Al Khobar. Foreign Nationals, including Westerners, and Saudi citizens were killed in the attacks. Terrorists held around 50 people hostage in the offices and residences of foreign oil company employees in Al-Khobar. The attack began at 7.30 in the morning, when four attackers in army uniform attacked the APICORP compound, site of the headquarters of the Arab Petroleum Investment Corporation as well as its housing facilities. The perpetrators seemed to spare Muslims but not without advising them towards their ill-guided version of piety. The hostage crisis, which lasted for almost 25 hours, came to an end on 30 May 2004 when Saudi commandos rescued fifty people. Twenty-two people were killed by the terrorists which included eight Indians. A website claiming to speak for Al-Qaeda declared that the Indians were killed in retaliation for the 'murder of our Muslim brothers in Kashmir.' The operation in Al Khobar succeeded in releasing many of the hostages, and the large number killed might have been hard to prevent, but the escape of three of the four terrorists was a substantial blow.
The Khobar storming increased the prospects of political instability in Saudi Arabia. Following the attack the US State Department urged the estimated 35,000 Americans living in the kingdom to leave the country.
On 02 June 2004 Saudi Arabia announced it was folding all of its private charities that send money overseas into a single commission in an effort to crack down on funding for terrorists. The government is setting up a new Saudi National Commission for Relief and Charity Work Abroad to better control the flow of money overseas.
On 07 June 2004 an alleged al-Qaida statement, which appeared on an Islamic website Monday, warned of new attacks against "all compounds, bases and means of transportation," including airlines from the United States and other Western countries, which the statement said would be a direct target of coming operations. The statement asked Muslims in Saudi Arabia to stay away from Americans and other Westerners to avoid becoming victims of the promised attacks. "All compounds, bases and means of transportation, especially Western and American airline companies, will be a direct target for our coming operations in the near future." The message warned "security forces and guards of Crusader compounds and American bases" and "those who carry weapons on behalf of the crusaders and the covert agents of the Saudi government.... We urge them to repent and separate themselves from the heretics and their habits and pursuit of wealth and their speech and their ways,"
Al-Qaida terrorists in Saudi Arabia killed American hostage Paul Johnson on 18 June 2004. The 49-year old American, a specialist on Apache attack helicopters who worked for Lockheed Martin in Saudi Arabia, was kidnapped on 12 June 2004. Members of the terrorist group al-Qaida released a videotape of Mr. Johnson 16 June, saying they would kill him in 72-hours unless the Saudi government releases all militants in its prisons. In the video, Johnson is blindfolded and wearing an orange shirt. Later, a hooded militant dressed in black with a Kalashnikov assault rifle says that Johnson will be killed unless all militants held in Saudi Arabia are released within 72 hours. The deadline was set to expire Friday. Three photographs were shown on an Islamic Internet site depicting the beheading. "The infidel got his fair treatment," declared a statement posted in Arabic that accompanied the photographs. "Let him taste something from what Muslims tasted who were long reached by Apache helicopter fire and missiles."
The death of Johnson followed days of intensive search throughout the capital Riyadh for the kidnappers. Helicopters hovered over the skyline of Saudi capital late Friday as thousands of police and security officers conducted door-to-door searches. There were police checkpoints at dozens of intersections throughout the city. Fire department vehicles joined the search. Earlier in the day, in a tearful plea for his release, Mr. Johnson's wife, Noom Johnson, appeared on the Arabic language al Arabiya television station asking for help from the Saudi government. The decapitated body of Paul Johnson was found north of the Saudi capital Friday after pictures of his severed head and body were flashed on several Islamic web sites.
Saudi security forces stormed a central Riyadh neighborhood in search of the terrorists who beheaded American hostage Paul Johnson. The security forces said the alleged Al Qaeda leader in Saudi Arabia, Abdulaziz al-Muqrin was killed during the assault.
On 06 December 2004 gunmen blasted their way into the US consulate in Jeddah, killing at least five non-American employees. Four members of the Saudi national guard who responded to the attack were also killed, as were three of the militants. According to a senior Saudi official in the capital Riyadh, no Americans were taken hostage in the attack against the US consulate in Jeddah. But the official said third-country nationals were briefly taken hostage before the consulate was secured. The official said four members of the Saudi security forces were killed, and several others were wounded during a gun battle that erupted after five attackers made their way inside the consulate compound. The attackers struck the consulate with explosive devices at two compound gates. Shortly afterward, the attackers opened fire with automatic weapons. A senior Saudi government official said it appeared the attackers used hand grenades in, what he called, a diversionary tactic, while others entered the compound firing their weapons.
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