Subj: Saudi royal family 'in complete panic' during December riots
Date: 1/3/02 11:00:55 AM Pacific Standard Time

Saudi royal family 'in complete panic' during December riots

Thursday, January 3, 2002

ABU DHABI – Saudi Arabia is downplaying reports of widespead
rioting last month but diplomatic sources said the nation
was rocked by the worst Islamic unrest in years.

The Saudi government as well as Western diplomatic sources
have confirmed reports of massive riots by fundamentalists
who attacked foreigners and Saudi families.

The fundamentalists destroyed property and even voiced calls
against the regime for what they asserted was its refusal to
abide by Islamic principles.

A diplomatic source said the riot in Jedda was assessed to
have been aimed directly at the regime. Several leading
members of the royal family were in the port city during the
Muslim holiday when several thousand fundamentalists took to
the street.

"The riot was organized and came within one step of being an
actual attack on the royal family," the source said. "The
family was in complete panic."

In Jedda, fundamentalists attacked women and families along
the beach as well as on the main thoroughfare. The militants
also blocked traffic, smashed windows and cars, including
that of a police vehicle.

Police were unable to stop the violence. The sources said
most of the militants escaped when security forces arrived.

Two Saudi princes were among the 300 people arrested, the
sources said. They said Saudi police had refused to arrest
the princes until they were ordered to by senior commanders.

The worst rioting took place in Jedda during last month's Id
El Fitr holiday. But other cities, including Dammam, were
also sources of unrest. Diplomatic sources said the
fundamentalist violence – linked to Osama Bin Laden – has
alarmed the regime. Saudi officials and newspapers have
confirmed the riots, but attributed them to unidentified
young people.

"This is the second year in a row that young men have been
the cause of trouble during Id," Raid Qusti reported in the
Riyad-based Arab News. "Have authorities and officials done
anything about it since last year? Were measures taken this
year to prevent such things from happening again? No. Not a
thing was done."

In Kharj, a Saudi police officer was shot dead in broad
daylight on Dec. 29. A suspect has been arrested, but Saudi
authorities would not disclose the motive of the killing.
Saudi sources said the motive appeared political.

In Dammam, a city with a large foreign community, Islamic
militants stopped cars and assaulted the women or foreigners
inside. Islamic fundamentalists have opposed women driving
by themselves without first-degree male relatives serving as