WASHINGTON, Dec. 23 (UPI) -- A fierce debate is raging within the ranks of al-Qaida whether to attack the Saudi Arabian regime directly, or to concentrate their attacks on Americans. One result of the argument is that a new organization, the Al-Haramayn (Two Holy Places) Brigades, has spun off from al-Qaida to attack Saudi targets.
The debate, which is conducted semi-openly by al-Qaida theorists and Islamic intellectuals on the website "The Voice of Jihad," has now drawn in a senior al-Qaida member Abd Al-Aziz bin Issa bin Abd Al-Mohsen, also known as Abu Hajer, who is on Saudi Arabia's most-wanted list. He argues that Saudi Arabia should be handled with kid gloves, as the major source of al-Qaida funding.
"Jihad members and Mujahideen sympathizers are divided," Abu Hajer says in an interview with the website (all translations from the Middle East Media Research Institute, on whose MEMRI.org website the al-Qaida material can be found.)
"Some said we must attack the invading forces that defile the land of the two holy places (i.e. the Arabian Peninsula), and must cause the Americans to become preoccupied with themselves and their bases so they won't leave them to crush the countries and lands of the Muslims, country by country. Others said we had to preserve the security of this base and of this country (i.e. Saudi Arabia), from which we recruit the armies, from which we take out the young people, and from which we receive (financial) backing. It must therefore remain safe.
"My opinion is an intermediate opinion between the two groups," Abu Hajer says. "It is true that we must keep the enemy preoccupied with himself and not give him a sense of security, because as soon as he secures his bases and his lines of supply, he will have an opportunity to use them to attack our brothers in different parts of the countries of the Islamic world. But we must prepare ourselves and be ready for this momentous event the best way we possibly can. We told them: 'Wait, we are readying ourselves.' Then we attacked the Americans.
"It is also true that we must take advantage of this country (Saudi Arabia) because it is the primary source of funds for most Jihad movements, and it has some degree of security and freedom of movement. But we must strike a balance between this and America's invasion of the Islamic world and its hobbling of the Jihad movement and even of other Islamic movements."
Other sections of the website reveal that al-Qaida's cause has been damaged by the killing of Muslims in the recent bombing attacks inside Saudi Arabia.
Louis Attiya Allah (an alias, but seen as one of al-Qaida's leading ideologues) said in an interview with the Voice of Jihad website: "Regarding the Al-Muhaya operation (the Nov. 8, 2003 bombing in Riyadh), it can be claimed that the house of Salul (an offensive term for the House of Saud) had some media success in portraying the battle as the killing of Muslims, and in inciting some against the Mujahideen. But this effect is temporary and will disappear if, for example, the Mujahideen strike another blow in America. Then sympathy will return to what it was in the past, and may even increase."
Asked why al-Qaida forces were not attacking the Saudi regime, Attiya Allah replied: "I don't know. Personally, I think attacking the heads of the regime will hasten its collapse. These decisions are discussed at Mujahideen meetings, and it is they who make this kind of decision, as ultimately these are military decisions.
"Perhaps the aim of the Mujahideen is to refrain from toppling the regime because the treasonous cover provided by the Saudi regime prevents America from striking a powerful blow to the entire country. That is one of the ideas that led the Mujahideen (to prefer) first of all neutralizing America, or paralyzing it, and only afterward turning to this regime and its ilk. I say this, even though I maintain that eliminating some members of the regime would be very useful and would make things easier for the Mujahideen without causing the regime's downfall."
"The Mujahideen are waging a great ongoing war with the masters (the Americans), and the slaves (the Saudis) have no place in this battle. The slaps and kicks that harm the slave during the Mujahideen's battle against its master are of no consequence in light of his fate when his master is defeated. The Mujahideen are warring with the masters, but we may soon see a little more attention directed toward these slaves."
The new Al-Haramayn Brigades has so far published two communiqués claiming to have carried out, on Dec. 5, 2003, the shooting of a high-ranking Saudi security officer. Its first communiqué stated:
"The aim of this operation was, first and foremost, to let him (the Saudi officer) and every apostate tyrant know that he will not in any way be protected from the Mujahideen and their weapons, Allah willing... This operation was the first measure by the Brigades in the land of the two holy places, and part of its plan to purge it, as it was decided that the first stage would focus on the two groups of apostates:
"The first group is the leaders of the Crusader attack on the land of the two holy places, and it includes all those who cooperated with America in any way -- by gathering information on the Mujahideen, by writing reports, by giving advice to the Crusaders, by raiding peaceful Muslims and intimidating them in their homes, by bringing their sons to the prisons, and by raiding the Mujahideen groups. The second group is the hangmen, which includes anyone who carries out torture in the prisons...
"Since our brothers in al-Qaida are preoccupied with waging war on the Crusaders, and since it has become clear from their repeated communiqués that they are not attacking the internal security apparatus, we have decided to relieve them of this important (religious obligation) and to purge the land of the two holy places of the (Arab) agents, freeing (al-Qaida) to purge it of the Crusaders...
"This is a message from The Al-Haramayn Brigades, based on a plan for cleansing the land of the two holy places, directed at anyone whose hand is stained with the defilement of collaboration (with the Americans) or whose defiled hand has tortured any of the monotheists (i.e. the Islamists). He must cease this immediately, or the hands of the monotheists will reach him."