RIYADH, Saudi Arabia, April 26 (UPI) -- Saudi Arabia released 500 al-Qaida sympathizers after they underwent religious counseling to bring them back to the moderate path of Islam.
Member of the counseling committee Mohammed Bin Yehya Nujeimi was quoted Wednesday by al-Jazeera as saying the committee, affiliated with the interior ministry, had conducted dialogue with 800 Saudis who had allegedly sympathized with prisoners convicted in cases of terrorism.
Out of the total, 500 were released following intensive studies and counseling sessions which moderated their views.
Nujeimi said those released were informed that they will be closely monitored by security forces, in addition to being continuously contacted by members of the counseling committee.
He said instructions were given by Deputy Interior Minister for Security Affairs Prince Mohammed bin Nayef to help reintegrate those released in the society, including returning them to their original jobs or securing new work opportunities for them.
Interior ministry sources said the release came after months of counseling by elite Saudi religious leaders to convince them to abandon extremist ideas.
Saudi Arabia has been conducting a nationwide security campaign to crack down on al-Qaida extremists since it was first rocked by terrorist bombings in May 2003.
Since then, al-Qaida terrorist operations have resulted in the killing of 120 people and injured 255 others.