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Saudi cleric's break with bin Laden

Sept. 18, 2007 at 4:33 PM

WASHINGTON, Sept. 18 (UPI) -- There is debate about the significance of an open letter from a Saudi religious scholar and former radical to Osama bin Laden.

Sheik Salman al-Oadah accused the al-Qaida leader of having the blood of millions of innocents on his hands in the letter, read aloud on a Saudi satellite TV channel and posted on his Web site Monday.

“How much blood has been spilled? How many innocent children, women, and old people have been killed, maimed, and expelled from their homes in the name of al-Qaida?” he asks in an open letter.

“Are you happy to meet Allah with this heavy burden on your shoulders? It is a weighty burden indeed -- at least hundreds of thousands of innocent people, if not millions.”

Al-Oadah was one of the leaders of the “sahwa” or revivalist movement among Saudi clerics in the early 1990s, and one of the first to preach against the presence of U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia on audio cassette tapes.

Al-Qaida expert and author Peter Bergen says that bin Laden was an admirer of al-Oadah’s and the latter’s imprisonment in 1994 had “a radicalizing effect.”

Bin Laden biographer Hamid Mir, says that, in interviews, the al-Qaida leader claimed al-Oadah had written pamphlets for the group on jihad, but that these were not published under his name.

Al-Oadah was released from jail in 1999; in March 2003 he was a signatory of a fatwa against the U.S. invasion of Iraq, and in November 2004 he signed another justifying resistance against the occupation, according to the Saudi-based Arab News Web site.

But in July 2003, according to Le Monde Diplomatique, he took in a public meeting with Shia religious leaders under the sponsorship of Crown Prince Abdullah.

--

Shaun Waterman, UPI Homeland and National Security Editor

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