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Who Burnt Ahmed? - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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It was sad and quite tragic to see pictures of Ahmed Al-Shaye, on Al Majd, Islamic television station earlier this week.

Al-Shaye is young man who grew up in an ordinary Saudi family, and therefore it is hard to believe why he drove a container full of fuel and explosives with the intention of destroying the Jordanian embassy in Iraq last December.

It is a wonder how this young man survived the explosion; some may even call it a miracle, although the operation claimed the lives of nine innocent people. A ball of fire thrust Al-Shaye away from the exploded container, and a crowd of Iraqi bystanders extinguished his burning body and took him to hospital. He had suffered 70 percent burns to his body.

Ahmed could have died like dozens of suicide bombers who cause daily deaths across Iraq. If he had died, we would not know the background to this story, which allows us an insight into what made Al-Shaye, this Saudi young man, almost become a suicide bomber.

What did Al-Shaye say? What could he say? What led him away from his family in Al-Iskan neighborhood of Buraidah city and to Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi? What made him commit this atrocity? An interview with Al-Sahye was published in Al Medina, in which he stated, “We hear about the attacks on Iraq, watch the bombing raids on news bulletins and satellite channels and we see the innocent victims of American assaults. I went to Iraq to preserve the dignity of religion and defend our brothers in Iraq.”

But there are many people, who like Al-Shaye watch footage from Iraq on Al-Jazeera, without feeling the urge to go and join the “holy struggle” in Iraq. Why did Al-Shaye interpret the images on television in a way that led him to commit a bloody act? He spoke further of what led him to Iraq; “In addition, I got the help of a friend I knew before my commitment to religion. He was not religious but we shared a common interest, and we agreed to go to Iraq. After he told me he knew how to enter, I prepared myself and collected some money. When the hour came I left to an Arab country that shares a border with Iraq and we entered there.”

Clearly, Al-Shaye was careful about what he said, as it is believed that the “Arab” country from which Ahmed sneaked into Iraq is Syria. This is according to a statement made by the Deputy of Interior Ministry for Intelligence Affairs, Ali Hussein Kamal, who was the first to visit Al-Shaye in the Iraqi hospital. After completing his investigation, Mr. Ali stated that Al-Shaye said he entered via ‘Ana city close to Syrian borders, then to Al-Ramadi. He also claimed that he belongs to the Al-Qaeda network, and it was this terrorist group that sent him to Iraq.

This leads us to another question, who recruited Al-Shaye? Who provided him with money and facilitated his passage? Who received his in Iraq? Who called this young man away from his homeland?

Al-Shaye’s father knew nothing of his son, except through a call he received when he was told that his son was killed in Iraq. However, Al-Shaye called his father personally shortly before the operation.

Al-Shaye claims that he did not intend to carry out a suicide operation and that he was only meant to park the vehicle in front of the area specified by the terrorist group before leaving. However, the explosion happened before he had a chance to get away.

Al-Shaye said that he found Iraq to be very different from what was depicted in the media and from what he had been told by “others”.

He described how he and others used to hide inside houses for a month and a half at a time, “As we entered Iraq they took whatever money I had as well as my passport. They give me little money and a false Iraqi ID. During the time I spent moving from one house to another, there were duties carried out by some individuals who returned to the house later.”

Al-Shaye described the well-hidden world of Saudis who burn in the fire of terrorism in Iraq. He depicts the huge gap between the imaginary picture of Jihad in Iraq, the “empire of faith” and the truth of the situation; “I won’t hide that what I found was different from what I used to hear and see in Riyadh. It appeared that as soon as one enters Iraq, he has no control over himself. He goes to Iraqis and can’t make any decision. He only carries out what he’s asked to do without hesitation or argument.”

I would highlight the importance of the word “Iraqis” in his statement. This is a significant point, indicating that the ringleaders in Iraq are not only Al-Qaeda but the remains of the Iraqi Baath party who are also involved. This is particularly significant since Al-Qaeda in Iraq and Zarqawi denied responsibility for the suicide bombing of the Jordanian embassy.

This does not suggest Al-Qaeda or Zarqawi’s innocence, but to their “temporary” cooperation with the members or sympathizers of Saddam’s regime that have escaped. It is a devilish dark alliance baptized by blood and fed on death.

The rest of Ahmed Al-Shaye’s story is known and well documented, up until the moment of delivering him to Saudi authorities. This young man’s story reminds me of the Saudi youth Fahd Al-Fahiqi, a twenty-four year old man whom Zarqawi used to carry out a suicide operation at the Karama crossing at the Iraqi/Jordanian border last December. Al-Fahiqi survived, not because he did not know his assignment or was deceived into suicidal mission, but because fate played its part. On his way to his destination, Al-Fahiqi’s truck hit a bump on the road, which disconnected the wires in the electrical circuit. He was arrested and is now facing trial in Jordan along with the absent Zarqawi. I personally attended one of the sessions in the military court in Jordan several days ago.

It was revealed that Al-Fahiqi was persuaded by a preacher in Riyadh to join the “holy struggle in Iraq” and he entered the well-known circle of terrorism before receiving his “assignment”.

Who entraps these young men? Is it the media who deceived Al-Shaye, through the images it portrays? Or is it the preacher who wonders between us like a hidden disease with epidemic proportions, promising the holy struggle against crusades while calling for the Islamic Jihad, which captures these young men?

Who manipulates these naive innocent emotions through political means? Is it a state, a regime or a party, which believes in the fundamentalism adopted by Al-Qaeda?

Is this evidence not sufficient for the Arab media, including some Saudi audio and visual media, to stop the instigation of terrorism and provocation; forging stories about the reality in Iraq? Is it not time to have a sense of responsibility so that no other Ahmed Al-Shaye will be burnt and no other Al-Fahiqi will fall between the gaps?

There are some writers and newspapers who feed this revolutionary feeling implicitly and cunningly. You can read many columns that constantly revolve around terrorist instigations and hatred. Then someone will ask, how do these appear among us?

These attitudes only serve as seeds in the field of narrow mindedness and fanaticism. They interpret all political events as a war between the Cross and Zionism on one side and Islam on the other.

But what if the son of one of these writers or journalists sacrificed his life, and was burnt alive or was arrested in Jordan? Would they continue to repeat such provoking calls or write articles flowing with the spirit of Bin Laden?

In all honesty how many of those who play with fire really are burned like Al-Shaye? This is the question we need to ask ourselves when we consider what our younger generations are reading and watching today – how many more Ahmed’s are there out there?

Mshari Al-Zaydi

Mshari Al-Zaydi

Mshari Al-Zaydi is a Saudi journalist and expert on Islamic movements and Islamic fundamentalism, as well as on Saudi affairs. He is Asharq Al-Awsat’s opinion page editor. Mr. Zaydi has worked for the local Saudi press, and has been a guest on numerous news and current affairs programs as an expert on Islamic extremism.

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