Monday, June 21, 2004

SRW - New Al Qaeda Head Ex-Policeman

This is a disturbing turn. A 38 year old, Medina-born ex-policeman and prison security officer is now the head of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Last week the Saudi dissident and anthropologist Mai Yamani spoke about the intricate tribal and family links between the security services and jihadists. Nnow the head of al Qaeda is the embodiment of those links.

'Saudi analysts say his experience and origins will make him a more effective leader than Muqrin was. "Saleh al-Oufi is the most dangerous" of the Al-Qaeda lieutenants left alive in Saudi Arabia, says a report in al-Hayat newspaper.'

Will he exploit his contacts inside the security services more effectively than Muqrin? Will fence-sitters inside the regime trust him more than previous leaders? Will his Medina connections grant him greater respect among the passive sympathizers?

al-Oufi is a veteran of jihads in Afghanistan and Bosnia and number 4 on the Saudis most wanted. He spent the last few years recruiting jihadists and running secret training camps. This, combined with his combat experience in the legendary jihads of the 1990s (when he was wounded), should make extremely respected by the younger generation.

After an period of consolidating his power, look for al-Oufi to prove himself, perhaps with an attack designed to be psychologically appealing to potential recruits. Altogether a dangerous turn of events.

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