| A sign in support of Paul M. Johnson and his family hangs on a pole in New Jersey on Saturday. (AFP)
Riyadh, June 20 (Reuters): Saudi Arabia told al Qaida militants today it would not allow them to destabilise the kingdom and warned they would share the fate of their slain leader unless they repented.
Undeterred by the death of Abdulaziz al-Muqrin, the leader of al Qaida in Saudi Arabia, the group vowed renewed “holy war” in the country.
Muqrin was shot dead by Saudi forces on Friday with three other prominent militants hours after they beheaded American hostage Paul Johnson, whose body has still not been found.
Analysts who have contacts with militants said they expected al Qaida to name Saleh al-Awfi, a former interior ministry employee, as Muqrin’s successor.
“We will not allow a corrupt group led by deviant thought to violate the security and stability of this land,” King Fahd, Saudi’s ailing ruler, told the opening of the Saudi consultative Shura Council today in comments on official agency SPA.
“The real Muslim has nothing to do with these actions and has no sympathy for those who carry them out,” he added.
Late yesterday, Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler Crown Prince Abdullah warned the militants: “We tell this deviant group and others that if they do not return to the right path, they will meet the same fate (as Muqrin) or worse.”
State television showed the corpses of the militants, blaming them for a wave of violence against foreigners in the Gulf state, a key US ally and the world’s biggest oil exporter.
Al Qaida confirmed the killings of Muqrin and three others in an Internet statement yesterday but voiced defiance.
“The Mujahideen are continuing the jihad (holy struggle) that they have pledged to God and the killing of their brothers will not weaken their resolve but only increase their determination and commitment,” it said.
Awfi, tipped as Muqrin’s successor, once fought in Afghanistan and is one of the 26 most wanted men listed by Saudi Arabia in December. At least 10 of those men have since been killed or captured by security forces.
Saudi foreign policy adviser Adel al-Jubeir said Riyadh would pursue Islamic extremists without mercy.
“We believe that with this blow to al Qaida in Saudi Arabia yesterday, we have substantially weakened their organisation,” Jubeir said. He said reports on Friday that Johnson’s body had been found were incorrect. Security forces were still searching for the corpse, believed to be in the Riyadh area.
Algerian militant killed
The Algerian military has killed the leader of an Islamic rebel organisation with ties to al Qaida, the army said today, dealing a significant blow to north Africa’s top militant group.
“Units of the People’s National Army, engaged in a vast anti-terrorist operation...have killed a number of criminals, including Nabil Sahraoui, alias Mustapha Abou Ibrahim, chief of the terrorist group known as the GSPC, as well as his (three) main aides,” the army said.
It said the militants died in the province of Bejaia, some 200 km east of the capital Algiers. It did not say when they were killed, but said the military operation was still going on.
The death of Sahraoui, who established links with al Qaida after taking over the leadership a year ago, was expected to significantly weaken the GSPC (Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat) — the only remaining major rebel organisation still fighting Algeria’s secular authorities.
GSPC is believed to be north Africa’s largest militant groups, with an estimated 500 armed members. The group which had claimed responsibility for kidnapping 32 European tourists in the Sahara desert last year.