Navigation Bar



Many Saudis criticise strikes, express support for Ben Laden

By Adnan Malik
The Associated Press Tuesday, October 9, 2001

RIYADH — The mood among Saudis on Monday seemed broadly critical of the US air strikes on Afghanistan and strongly supportive of Osama Ben Laden, the prime target of the attacks.

“Americans have taken things too far. These strikes were totally unnecessary and uncalled for,” said Raed, 27, who declined to give his surname. He spoke in an informal sampling of people at shopping malls and mosques in the capital Riyadh.

“We feel sorry for the poor Afghan people ... the Americans should listen carefully to what Ben Laden is saying. He is only saying what Arabs and Muslims around the world have been saying for a very long time,” Raed added.

Ben Laden, who comes from a well-established Saudi family, gave a prerecorded speech on international television late Sunday as the first wave of US and British missiles were exploding in Afghanistan. The Western allies struck the country in a bid to destroy the bases of Ben Laden's Al Qaeda group, which they accuse of instigating the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.

Ben Laden said “God” had hit America “in one of its softest spots. Its greatest buildings were destroyed, thank God for that.”

“I swear by God ... neither America, nor the people who live in it, will dream of security before we live it in Palestine, and not before all infidel armies leave the land of Muhammad, peace be upon him,” Ben Laden said, referring to the presence of US forces in Saudi Arabia.

A Saudi businessman, Saad Al Shahrani, 38, expressed admiration for Ben Laden as he watched the speech in a hotel lobby while it was being rebroadcast on the Qatari satellite channel Al Jazeerah on Monday.

“They call him terrorist, but in reality he is a true Muslim hero who deserves to be backed by all Muslims throughout the world,” Shahrani said.

“We all feel what Ben Laden has said, but he is a real man to go out in the open and express our feelings. His words were beautiful.”

Sahrani said he approved of Ben Laden's saying that Americans would not live in peace until the Palestinians enjoyed peace.

The Saudi government, a staunch US ally, has condemned Ben Laden. Last week, Saudi Defence Minister Prince Sultan reminded Saudis that the government had stripped Ben Laden of his citizenship, adding: “Ben Laden has revealed himself as a terrorist and a criminal.” Several Saudis expressed the widespread concern that innocent Afghans would be hurt in the US and British strikes.

“The Americans and all their supporters will pay the price for this injustice and cruelty,” said Mohammed Al Qahtani, 45, a businessman. “This is Haram,” or un-Islamic, he added.

“What good are these strikes doing?” asked Mosaad Hamoud. “Only the poor Afghan people are suffering and those the strikes were targeted against are still out there.”

However, Hammoud was a little cynical about Ben Laden's speech.

“What Ben Laden said is what we feel, but he is only expressing this now because he is in trouble.”

Wail, 25, a businessman who declined to provide his full name, equated the terrorism of Al Qaeda with Israeli military conduct in the Palestinian territories — a view held across the Arab world.

“If they (Americans) really want us to believe them then they should also target Israel, which is the modern world's biggest terrorist,” he said.

Previous Headline Return to Jordan Times Today's Home Page Next Headline