May 7, 2009


Asharq Al-Awsat Goes Inside Al Qaeda's Hideout (Turki Al-Saheil, 5/07/09, asharq alawasat)

It appears that members of the Al Qaeda terrorist cell whose activities were disrupted by Saudi security forces last month were in the process of trying to revive their Afghan experience by hiding out in the southern region of Saudi Arabia, which is the closest thing in Saudi Arabia to the rugged Afghan Tora Bora mountainside. [...]

This Afghan experience was reflected in members of the Al Qaeda cell that has become known as the "southern cave" cell choosing this location for its hide-out. Asharq Al-Awsat was recently the first newspaper to visit the southern cave.

The main cave was used by members of the cell for the storage of arms and foodstuffs, and occasionally as a temporary place of shelter also. The cave is located 155 km or two hours from the city of Abha, which is the capital of the Asir province. The cave is one of a series of small isolated caves in the Sarwat mountainside, which stretches from the Western region of Saudi Arabia to Yemen. This mountain range is 1000 meters above sea level at its lowest point and 2200 meters above sea level at its highest.

Access to the region where the Al Qaeda cell's cave is located requires detour around villages such as Ballahmar and Ballasmar, as well as travelling through the region of Al-Namas. Al Namas is only a stones throw away from the opening of the cave where the terrorist cell that was planning on carrying out a series of assassinations against senior security figures was holed up.

One of the [governmental] escorts that accompanied Asharq Al-Awsat on the trip to the cave which took approximately 8 hours, revealed that "The security services operation to uncover [the location of] the cave took place quietly without any of the local population being aware of it" or even "the local residents knowing about the existence of the cave, or its location."

The rugged terrain of this mountainous region does not suggest that life can easily flourish under these harsh geographical conditions, and this is not to mention the cold atmosphere at these heights. It is clear that this is what made it easy for the members of the Al Qaeda cell to move around in this mountainous region. Indeed the majority of those arrested are originally from mountainous regions, and so traversing such areas is not difficult for them.

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 7, 2009 11:24 AM
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