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They’re Not Harvard Graduates! - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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The vast amount of information available about Al Qaeda tells us that the fight against terrorism will be a long one and that it requires practical and quick action so that extremism may be eradicated from its roots. Despite that the Pakistani ambassador to Riyadh admitted that it would be hard to guess the exact number of Arab fighters who battle against the Pakistani army side by side with the Taliban, he estimated that the number is around 10,000 in the Swat Valley and close to 4 or 5 thousand in Waziristan.

This does not include the number of fighters in Iraq for example, or Yemen, where some sources suggested recently that there are approximately 3000 Al Qaeda members. It has become apparent that the organization has begun to rearrange itself in Yemen as Al Qaeda considers it an essential location for training and attracting recruits. Above all, it is important because of its close proximity to Saudi Arabia, which has become a clear target for Al Qaeda. This was highlighted a couple of days ago by Prince Naif Bin Abdulaziz, Saudi Arabia’s Second Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister who said, “We are targets in this country and we are in danger of something bigger, not in terms of quantity but in terms of malice.”

Moreover, Al Qaeda is keen on having a presence in Yemen in order to facilitate gaining foreign support. Here we must look carefully at what the Al Houthis are doing in Yemen, as those financing the Al Houthis and Al Qaeda are one and the same, and this forces us to pay attention to how Al Qaeda developed its use of technology for the sake of causing more destruction from afar, for example.

Therefore, the question today is how will these numbers of terrorists throughout Pakistan, Yemen and Iraq be dealt with? How will those who claim to have renounced terrorism be dealt with, as they are a real danger? They’re not Harvard graduates; they pose a real threat, as they are coming back to us with experience of causing more destruction and ruin and this is what justifies Prince Naif Bin Abdulaziz’s statement that we are facing something bigger in terms of malice.

Most importantly, how can we guarantee that other terrorists will not be recruited? The Jeddah suicide bomber who tried to assassinate Prince Mohammed Bin Naif for example was in his twenties, which means that he was around 16 years of age when the 9/11 attacks took place. He is amongst those who were trained in Yemen on [how to use] SAM 7s, mortar grenades and RPGs in addition to being trained on how to use explosive and poisonous materials.

Therefore we are facing two difficult tests; the first is dealing with the terrorists that are already present and the second is guaranteeing that no more youths are recruited to carry out terrorist acts. These both require a lot of effort and tough decisions as well as a strong level of awareness amongst public opinion.

Therefore, we are in need of a lot of effort from religious scholars of the Ummah in order to issue a joint clear and honest religious edict that forbids all suicide operations, just as we are in dire need today to cut off the resources of the justifiers and instigators [of terrorism] whoever they may be.

We must recognize that today we are facing no less than at least 10,000 terrorists who are moving around amongst us and their goal is to cause ruin and destruction, let alone those amongst the youth who might be drawn to terrorism.

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed is the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat. Mr. Alhomyed has been a guest analyst and commentator on numerous news and current affair programs, and during his distinguished career has held numerous positions at Asharq Al-Awsat, amongst other newspapers. Notably, he was the first journalist to interview Osama Bin Ladin's mother. Mr. Alhomayed holds a bachelor's degree in media studies from King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah. He is based in London.

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