Al-Qaeda weapons site a ‘long-term cache’


According to sources, the site in Thadiq in the Al-Safrat region 95km to the northwest of Riyadh is owned by the 70-year-old father of one of the 44 arrested, and was first identified by security officials on Oct. 25.

The owner of the land, a retired civil servant, is the imam of a local mosque who frequented the site with family members, using the open-air concrete seating area with no knowledge of the weapons stored beneath. “We sat with our children on top of the stash, completely unaware,” a brother of the arrested said.

The arrested, sources said, is 36 years old and was employed as an aid worker. Relatives, who described him as of a “low level of education”, said that he had been arrested on a previous occasion and had shown signs of religious extremism for approximately ten years.

A senior member of the family added that the family had been warned of him after he was “arrested in Qassim with a group of extremists”. It was not revealed when that first arrest took place.

Sources said that he had been in the custody of authorities for 18 months before the November announcement.

His arrest, according to the sources, was a possible key factor in leading authorities to the rest of the 44-strong network, who included among their ranks university professors and businessmen.

A security official at the time of the announcement described the 44 arrested suspects as “not merely followers or theorists of the deviant thought but also financers for large quantities of weapons”.

Long-term cache
The site of 3,000 sq m with an attached “istiraha” rest house may have been used to store the weapons and ammunition for over three years, the sources said, adding that the arms found wrapped and bound suggested a long-term cache.

Authorities in early November announced the discovery of large quantities of weapons at the site, including 281 machine guns, 250 rifle magazines, and 55 boxes of ammunition containing 41,250 rounds. “Security officials have located sites with larger and more diverse stashes of weapons over the last few years around the country, so this won’t be the last,” the official said. “The professionalism of the officials has resulted in preemptive strikes against terrorist organizations.”

The head of Dubai’s Al-Khaleej Research Center has said that the nature of the weapons found at the Thadiq site “strongly suggest that they were from the same source and smuggled across the Saudi-Yemen border”.
Abdul Aziz Bin Othman Saqr told Okaz that the quantity and type of arms found all pointed to them having been brought across the border.
“Yemen needs to increase its efforts to control its borders, and provide training and equipment for its border guards,” Saqr said. “Retired Saudi Border Guard officers could assist them in that line with their lengthy experience.”

Security analyst, retired army general and former King Saud University Professor of Political Science Ibrahim Owayyed Al-Otaibi described the border region as a “refuge for outlaws from both countries”.


“Crime, violence, and extremism are rife there,” Al-Otaibi said. “The recent infiltration into the Kingdom by destructive elements is only a recent example of the external powers attempting to utilize the issue for their interest.”


“The good relations between the Kingdom and Yemen will, however, see Yemen increase security measures to curb weapons and explosives smuggling. Cooperation between both countries’ Border Guard will assuredly bring greater control to the border,” Al-Otaibi said.
Yemeni officials have in the past admitted that the 1,326-km border with Saudi Arabia is extremely difficult to control due to the rugged nature of the territory and a lack of equipment, placing a greater burden on the Saudi Border Guard.


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