RIYADH, (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia’s interior minister said on Sunday the kingdom’s war against al Qaeda was not over, even after the death of top leaders of the group’s Saudi wing.
“The battle with them is not finished,” Prince Naif bin Abdulaziz told state-run television. “You never know, some new leaders might emerge,” he added.
Saudi-born Osama bin Laden’s group has been waging a violent campaign in the kingdom for nearly three years, aimed at toppling the pro-U.S. monarchy and expelling Westerners from the birthplace of Islam.
Prince Naif’s brief remarks came in response to a question about the damage caused to al Qaeda by the killing of five militants, including four who were on a most-wanted list of al Qaeda-linked suspects, in a clash with security forces last month.
The killings meant that almost all of 15 wanted men thought to be at large inside Saudi Arabia from a list of 36 that was issued last year had been killed or arrested.
Security analysts say the other 21 are outside the country, many believed to have joined insurgents fighting in Iraq, and that some may be dead.
Those killed last month included Fahd al-Juweir, who the government said was a leader of the Saudi wing of al Qaeda.
In a video tape posted on the Internet after his killing, Juweir warned Americans to leave the kingdom or face more bloodshed and bombings.
Officials say about 150 foreigners and Saudis, including security forces, and more than 120 militants have died in attacks and clashes with police since May 2003, when al Qaeda suicide bombers hit three Western housing compounds in Riyadh.