Recent killings and kidnappings of foreigners in Saudi Arabia, including the
beheading of American Paul Johnson by al-Qaida terrorists Friday, has brought
fear among foreigners living in the kingdom. Many say they plan to leave the
country as soon as possible. But, some Saudis say a mass exodus of foreigners
would prove to be victory for the terrorists.
One of the goals of terrorists working in Saudi Arabia is to create fear.
In that respect, analysts, experts and politicians unanimously agree that al-Qaida
militants appear to be succeeding in the Saudi kingdom.
Numerous governments, including the United States and Britain, have urged their
citizens living in Saudi Arabia to leave the country. And, following Friday's
beheading of American Paul Johnson, fear among foreigners has intensified. This,
despite Saturday's announcement that the man thought to be responsible for Mr.
Johnson's death was killed in a shootout with police late Friday that also resulted
in the deaths of three other wanted al-Qaida terrorists along with the arrests
of a dozen more suspected terrorists.
Some taxi drivers in the kingdom now say they have become afraid to transport
The U.S. embassy in Riyadh is warning foreigners not to venture out in public,
regardless of where they live. One U.S. embassy employee said no safe place
exists in the capital.
Five star hotels are advising their foreign guests not to leave their hotels
unless they have a specific destination that can assure some level of security.
Foreigners are even advised against traveling to heavily protected high-end
retail malls because, as one Saudi woman working at the U.S. embassy said, "al-Qaida
can be anywhere at any moment."
Following more than a year of escalating terrorist violence that has claimed
scores of lives, Saudi officials have taken extraordinary measures to boost
security throughout the kingdom. Along the route from the airport to Riyadh,
for example, there are three security checkpoints, and there are dozens more
at intersections throughout the capital.
Thousands of police and military personnel are patrolling the streets. Buildings,
including ministries, hotels, and other locations that may be frequented by
foreigners are surrounded by cement walls and barriers and guarded by armed
An American businessman, who asked not to be identified, said he and his
colleagues were shocked by Friday's beheading of Mr. Johnson. He said the killing
indicates that no foreigner, "can visit a clinic or a grocery store without
fear of being killed."
Another American businessman said being in Saudi Arabia carries the "serious
risk" of being killed anywhere at any time.
But editorials in Saturday's edition of the Arab News say a mass exodus
of foreigners from the kingdom would show that the terrorists are winning.
The editorial commentary also urges the Saudi government to increase security.
For it's part, the Saudi government has acknowledged that security is still
lacking, but says thousands of security personnel are being trained and hundreds
of millions of dollars are being spent on state-of-the-art equipment to aid
law enforcement in its attempt to crack down on militant groups.
Senior officials at the U.S. embassy concur that security has become the
top priority for the Saudi government. However, they say until that security
apparatus is completely functional, nowhere in Saudi Arabia remains safe for