Suicide attack on Saudi prince
SAN'A: The suicide bomber who lightly wounded Saudi Arabia's assistant interior minister set out from an area of neighboring Yemen known to be an al-Qaida sanctuary, Yemen's foreign minister said Saturday.
The revelation that a militant was able to cross into Saudi Arabia and target a member of the royal family confirmed the fears of Saudi officials that Yemen's instability could allow al-Qaida to carry out cross-border attacks from its new base in the neighboring country.
The man who tried to assassinate Prince Mohammed bin Nayef on Thursday night came from Mareb, east of the capital, Yemen's foreign minister, Abu-Bakr al-Qirbi, told The Associated Press.
The foreign minister said the man claimed he wanted to hand himself over to Saudi authorities and urge other militants to turn their back on al-Qaida.
The attempted assassination is the first known attack in Saudi Arabia carried out by a Yemen-based militant since separate al-Qaida operations in Yemen and Saudi Arabia merged in January.
A crackdown on al-Qaida's Saudi branch forced it to move most of its operations to Yemen, where instability and poverty have enabled it to take root.
Contributing to Yemen's lawlessness, the government lacks control of large areas beyond the capital and is battling insurrections against rebels in the north and separatists in the south.
The new group, al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, has made several unsuccessful attempts to strike inside the kingdom. In April, Saudi authorities discovered a cave in the remote Saudi mountains near the Yemeni border that was a way station for the militants. Saudi police seized 11 suspected Saudi militants planning armed robberies, kidnappings and other attacks.
Al-Qirbi said he did not have details on the man who blew himself up Thursday.
"He was in Yemen," said al-Qirbi. "He claimed that he was going to hand himself over to Saudi authorities and make a statement to his followers to abandon al-Qaida principles." The Saudi newspaper Okaz reported Saturday that the man was on Saudi Arabia's list of wanted militants, which includes 85 names, most of them Saudi.
The suicide bomber was in line to enter a gathering of well-wishers for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan at the prince's home in the western Saudi city of Jiddah when he blew himself up.
The prince was lightly injured. The man had sent word he wanted to surrender and the prince had ordered that he not be searched to encourage others to come forward.
The bombing was the first assassination attempt against a member of the royal family in decades and was also the first significant attack by militants in the kingdom since 2006. Saudi Arabia has waged a fierce crackdown on al-Qaida militants in the country. It has killed or captured most of their leaders after a string of attacks that started in 2003.