An estimated 600 Saudis have joined al-Qaeda-affiliated groups in Syria fighting against President Bashar’s al-Assad’s regime, a Saudi expert in Islamist movements told Al Arabiya’s weekly program “Death making” on Friday.
Faris Bin Hizam said many Saudis are fighting on the ranks of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and the al-Nusra Front.
But the Saudi fighters are only a small number if compared to other foreign nationalities fighting in Syria, Bin Hizam said.
He added that unlike Iraq and Afghanistan, where al-Qaeda has a strong presence, there is increased awareness amongst Saudis regarding the dangers of belonging to al-Qaeda, and a widely held belief that the Syrian revolution does not need more fighters but rather financial support.
Bin Hizam noted that Saudi Arabia’s tight security measures are able to contain the al-Qaeda, something Libya and Tunisia failed to do after their revolution.
The ISIL is al-Qaeda’s main branch in Syria, although al-Qaeda Chief Ayman al-Zawahiri recently ordered its disbanding. He said al-Qaeda in Syria is to be represented only by the al-Nusra Front.
The al-Nusra Front, created in January 2012, joined al-Qaeda in December of that year and is on a U.S. list of foreign terrorist’s organizations.
The al-Nusra Front has carried out major attacks against the Syrian armed forces, including several suicide bombings.
The Saudi expert said that there were no Saudis among the top 10 commanders in the al-Qaeda groups in Syria. According to him, they join the terrorist group only to take part in suicide bombings and civil operations.
Bin Hizam noted that the al-Qaeda tends to amplify the number of its Saudi members in Syria, Pakistan, Yemen and Iraq as a way to attract more more volunteers and more financial support from its donors.
Most-wanted Saudi man
The program also aired the latest images of Saleh al-Qarawi, the most-wanted man on a list of 85 terrorists, issued by the Saudi Interior Ministry in 2009. Qarawi appeared to have lost an eye, his right hand and his feet.
The analyst said Qarawi sustained those injuries last month and is now in Saudi Arabia as he surrendered to the authorities to receive treatment.
Al-Qarawi served as a senior leader and operative for the Abdullah Azzam Brigades (AAB), a Lebanese militant organization and also operated in Iran and Afghanistan.
“Death Making” airs every Friday on Al Arabiya News Channel at 9:30 PM GMT and re-airs on Saturday at 3:30 AM GMT and on Wednesday at 6:00 PM GMT.
- Al-Qaeda in Syria raids wedding party, warns against music and singing
- Al-Qaeda’s Zawahiri disbands main faction operating in Syria
- Confronting al-Qaeda in Syria
- Kurds in Iraq, Syria work as shield against al-Qaeda
- Report: Qaeda recruits enter Syria from safe houses in Turkey
- Turkey’s war on al-Qaeda groups in Syria
- Al-Qaeda rise in northern Syria leaves Turkey with dilemma
- Key Syria rebel groups tell Qaeda to quit border town
- Commander of al-Qaeda in Iraq and Syria has been killed
- Syria’s new opposition PM faces daunting al-Qaeda challenge
- Al-Qaeda tells Syria fighters to shun secularists