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Saudi Official: Illegal Drug Trade Funding Terrorism in the Kingdom and Iraq - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat- The number of Saudi citizens fighting in Iraq was diminishing as cooperation between Saudi Arabia and Syria increased in an attempt to track down and arrest those crossing the border illegally to join the insurgency; a Saudi source told Asharq al Awsat.

As the security situation in Iraq has progressively deteriorated, the source indicated that drug smuggling, especially cannabis, from Iraq into Saudi Arabia has increased. He said, &#34We have reason to believe the profit from smuggling drugs is financing militants fighting the Iraqi and multinational armies and facilitating the illegal entry of men into the country. It also supports al Qaeda’s terrorist activities inside the Kingdom.”

After spending months monitoring monetary transactions in the Kingdom, the Saudi authorities concluded drug smuggling was funding terrorism.

Those supporting terrorism in Saudi Arabia &#34are known to the authorities but we are purposefully withholding details.&#34 However, the source said, the Kingdom was &#34less sure of the identities of those involved in Iraq but expected a few leads, including the increase in drug smuggling operations, to shed light on the perpetrators. In one year alone, border police intercepted 10 tons of cannabis coming from Iraq, whereas in the past, the merchandise used to consist of alcoholic beverages and prohibited drugs.”

He indicated that those financing the insurgency in Iraq and terrorism in Saudi Arabia were likely related, “which some groups who will remain anonymous intent on hurting Saudi Arabia without caring who their money is going to and for what end.&#34 He asked, &#34When thousands of riyals are spent on terrorists in the Kingdom, how can we guarantee the funds will not be also made available for those in Iraq? How can we ensure the profit from drug smuggling doesn”t also finance terrorism in Saudi Arabia?”

Asked if Saudi groups were financing militants to fight in Iraq, the Saudi source stressed no evidence was available in this regard. He added, “I can confirm that Saudi men who intend on joining the insurgency are financially backed by groups outside of the Kingdom.” Terrorists in Iraq, he continued, “only want Saudis to act as a fighter or a financier.”

On the route would-be terrorists follow to Iraq, the source said, “There are a number of ways of traveling to Iraq. Some leave Saudi Arabia legally using their own passport and then travel to Syria, or visit and Arab country before heading to Syria. Those wanted by the authorities cross illegally into Yemen first.” Generally, “A young man decides he wants to fight in Iraq, illegally enters Yemen, travels to Syria, and is subsequently smuggled across the border into Iraq.” The source emphasized, &#34The Syrian authorities are fully cooperating. The same can be said of the Yemeni government with whom we exchange information on suspected militants.”

Saudi society is increasingly aware of the dangers of the spiraling violence in Iraq, understands terrorist groups were engaged in a “game” and not jihad (holy war) and that their children and relatives might be fall victim to this sham. The source revealed how, in a number of cases, parents informed the authorities of their suspicions their sons were planning to travel to Iraq.

“We were able to intervene and save them from their certain death before they left and arrest them.”

The source could not hide his emotions when evoking the videotape broadcast earlier this week where a Saudi teenager, Ahamd al Shayeh, explains how he was tricked by terrorists and assigned to a suicide operation against his will, without knowing he was likely to die in the attack. In December 2004, the youngster targeted the Jordanian embassy in Baghdad and miraculously survived but suffered severe burns to his body and facial disfigurement. He spoke candidly of his experience and of those who deceived him saying he was the victim of an obscure group with unclear goals.

After the video was broadcast in Saudi Arabia, the source revealed, “Parents pleaded for us to screen it again. In the space of two hours, 700 callers commented on the video.”

A high ranking Saudi official had announced, earlier this year, to a number of Saudi journalists, in a private meeting to discuss the latest developments on terrorism, that the numbers of Saudi men estimated to be in Iraq was between 2000 and 3000, the majority of which had entered the country via Syria and filled the ranks of Abu Musab al Zarqawi”s group. Others who cross the northern border with Iran joined Jaysh Ansrar al Sunna (the army of the companions of the Prophet). The well-guarded border between the Kingdom and Iraq and the sprawling desert meant traveling to Iraq through Saudi Arabia was unlikely.