RealNews

Saudis 'Wake Up' To Threat Of Islamic Militancy

THE carefully arranged rows of designer Western clothing stand unsold at the Riyadh branch of Harvey Nichols, where bored salesmen wait expectantly for their usually reliable customers to return. However, two months after suicide bombers struck in the Saudi capital the only objects selling well this summer are the concrete barriers and razor wire that have been erected across the city. “I have never seen anything like it,” a British expatriate, who has lived here for more than 15 years, said. “We have armed guards and checkpoints. Many people have sent families back. Others do not like to venture out. It feels like we are living on the front line of a war.” It would be an exaggeration to say that the country is under siege, but there is no doubt that Saudi Arabia’s long- awaited battle against militant Islam, and in particular Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda network, has finally begun. After years of concealing the problem of militant Islam in the very heart of the Saudi establishment, the authorities realised belatedly that the threat was not only directed at American and other interests but also now posed an existential challenge to the half-century rule of the House of Saud. “This is a sea change,” said one foreign expert who has been closely connected to Saudi Arabia for nearly 20 years. Full Story

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