Saudi shows repentant militants on TV

In an apparent bid to showcase its own war on terror, Saudi TV is airing confessions of alleged Al Qaeda militants on state TV, Reuters reports.

It was not clear if any of the Islamic militants shown on Monday were directly involved in any attacks. They were not named and their faces were digitally obscured.

"We say thank God we were caught before we carried out any crime and harmed Muslims," one of the men said.

Others told how they were won over to the goal of a purist Islamic state and fulfilling religious demands to rid Arabia of non-Muslims, even declaring other Muslims who did not share their belief to be infidels.

One said he was shown fatwas, or religious edicts, on the Internet, including rulings which warned against working for the Saudi government which had become a "false God." Another described how recruits went to a resthouse in Riyadh where they learned to handle and clean guns, and how they were taken out to the desert for "training."

Some went to the holy city of Mecca where they spent three or four days in a camp learning to assemble and fire weapons with the militants.

"I was one of them, until recently. Thank God I was jailed and God enlightened me," said one.

Monday's broadcast included a government appeal to Saudi parents to "protect their sons from exploitation by terrorist groups who use them to fuel the fire of crime and aggression."


I also urge all readers to get hold of a copy on The New Yorker's January 5th edition to read Lawrence Wright's article on Saudi Arabia, "The Kingdom of Silence." He just spent three months living in Saudi teaching journalists at the Saudi Gazette and this is an account of his time there. I first met Larry in Egypt when he was researching an article Ayman Al Zawahri, which turned out to be fantastic -- a real primer on Egyptian political Islam. When I last spoke to him, he was also working on a book on 9/11.
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Issandr El Amrani

Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region, www.arabist.net.