May 31, 2004


Suspected al-Qaeda "militants" -- such a useful word -- have killed 25 people in Khobar, during which they took the time to conduct a quick survey of religious beliefs:

"Are you Muslim or Christian? We don't want to kill Muslims. Show us where the Americans and Westerners live," Islamic militants told an Arab after a shooting rampage against Westerners in Saudi Arabia.

The four gunmen, aged 18 to 25 and wearing military vests, grabbed Abu Hashem, an Iraqi with a United States passport, in front of his home in the Oasis compound in Khobar, but they let him go when he told them he was a Muslim.

"Don't be afraid. We won't kill Muslims - even if you are an American," he quoted them as saying.

Mighty decent of them. Of course, if you aren’t of the approved faith ...

Saudi special forces rescued 25 hostages when they stormed a building where suspected al-Qaeda militants had already slit the throats of nine people, a survivor told AFP.

Among the dead were seven Asians, a Swede and an Italian, said Nijar Hijazin, who had himself been taken hostage at the housing compound in the kingdom's Eastern Province yesterday.

UPDATE. One of the victims was an Australian resident. And more details of that friendly survey have emerged:

The gunmen who sparked a terrifying hostage crisis in Saudi Arabia went from house to house, rifling through papers and asking probing questions as they hunted down foreigners to kill, witnesses said today.

Posted by Tim Blair at May 31, 2004 06:32 AM

How long before Swedes, and other "above-the-fray" peoples realize that "what did we do to deserve this" is a meaningless question?

You didn't do nuthin'. So what. Maybe that's the problem.

Posted by: ras at May 31, 2004 at 06:56 AM

And the Saudis are the only ones surprised.

This is the face of our enemy. Anyone think the Western media will give this as much play as the Abu Hazing story?

Naaahhh, me neither.

Posted by: Barbara Skolaut at May 31, 2004 at 06:59 AM

And I wonder if the press will clamor for the right to show the bodies and the coffins, like they do for US soldiers in Iraq. Will Ted Koppel and Gary Trudeau read the names of the dead?

Posted by: ras at May 31, 2004 at 07:10 AM

Hostage "crisis" my ass! I love it. "You've got hostages? We've got ordnance!" More please.

Posted by: Brian Jones at May 31, 2004 at 07:17 AM

When I think "militant", I think militant feminist or environmentalist. Not jihadi psychopaths. The "right wing" Fox news also used the word "militants" to describe the killers in Saudi Arabia. So as long as you have "strong" religious views while killing you are simply a militant. If you're not religious then you're a murderer, killer, terrorist, etc.

Posted by: SleepyInSeattle at May 31, 2004 at 08:18 AM

I wouldn't be surprised if they wanted to kill the Muslims anyway but didn't want the flack.

Halliburton mentioned in Islamist web site celebrating the slaughter. Unification of ideologies?

On second thoughts ... what are things coming to when the murder of innocents is an ordinary occurance, and mention of Halliburton is the only thing that surprises me?

Posted by: Andjam at May 31, 2004 at 10:19 AM

And the correct answer was "Saudi".
Osama and most of the 911 people, terrorists... seem to have been Saudis.
The other main supporter of terrorism (and we know he did Lockerbie) was Gaddafi in Libya.

I'm not sorry to see the back of Saddam, but it now seems obvious he didnt have much of an army, let alone anything resembling usable WMD. Otherwise, he might have been able to return fire with something bigger than a RPG. In terms of politics, the dude was a chancer, all mouth and definitely no trousers. That was a particularly luxurious hole he was living in.

So... lots of people die tragically in Iraq, the Sunnis in Iran are pissing themselves laughing and Tony Blair has been off kissing Libyan ass.

Saddam needed removing, but given what we now know about his forces, there might have been a cheaper way of doing it.

There are really insanely bad people out there, but the average person responding to this site would rather invade France (not recommended, they do have WMD (tho' mainly pointed at Berlin))

Even people who clean their teeth with a banjo must be starting to suspect that, maybe, the intelligence was a little bit wrong.
That was always going to happen when politicians start demanding good news stories rather than facts.
There's a war to be fought... but Iraq wasnt it, that could have been cleaned up later. Now, Iraq is home to any ideological loon that can afford an AK47.
And yes, name the dead.... they deserve honour and recognition.

Posted by: Kneejerk U Lose at May 31, 2004 at 10:25 AM

Its also worth noting that the majority of the dead, as usual, were not westerners – they were Asian workers.

One American
One Briton
Looking down the dead it seems that the majority were not westersn and the majority killed were muslim:

One South African
One Swede
One Italian

Two Sri Lankans
Three Saudis
Three Filipinos
One Egyptian
Eight Indians

I suspect this "we'll spare you because you're a muslim line" is used by security guards who were either in on or acquiescent to the act.

Posted by: Giles at May 31, 2004 at 10:41 AM

"Muslim" isn't a race, the murdered Saudis and others may not have been muslim. Or "sufficiently" muslim.

Posted by: Sortelli at May 31, 2004 at 11:05 AM

I think these AQ members just want to kill, period. Al Qaeda has recruited and trained homocidal maniacs, people without a conscious. If push comes to shove, being Muslim doesn't mean a free pass at all, if they think you might not possibly be 100% in their court.

Posted by: The Real JeffS at May 31, 2004 at 12:03 PM

Shiia muslims (not Sunni) rule in Iran.
Saddam had usable WMD , fortunately he didn't have soldiers willing to use them.

As a direct result of the War in Iraq, AL Queda, which has promised a terrorist attack which will make westerners blood turn to ice, is reduced to killing the odd foreigner in Saudi Arabia.

I call that success.

Posted by: Papertiger at May 31, 2004 at 12:28 PM

The Sunnis in Iran, "Kneejerk?" One should try to be at least a little careful with the facts before calling others stupid, as you did.
I certainly agree that the Saudis are at the root of many problems. If you think that the US could possibly have attacked Saudi Arabia, you're laughably wrong. There was much more of an open, international case against known enemy and international rogue and criminal Saddam Hussein than there possibly could be against nominal ally Saudi Arabia. One thing the Iraqi War did accomplish-- it got all our troops out of defending Saudi Arabia, and instead carefully positioned in nice, central Iraq, able to go in any direction.
The USA most certainly could not invade Saudi Arabia without establishing preconditions. Merely suspecting them, even for good reason, is not enough. Getting our troops out is a necessary first step as well which has been accomplished.

Posted by: John Thacker at May 31, 2004 at 12:29 PM

Whether Saddam had WMD stockpiled or not is not the issue. Regime change there was a strategic decision in the greater war against terrorism. It also served to show that the U.S. was not going to continue its passivity in the face of attacks on our embassies, ships, soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen. It seems to have had a salubrious effect on Gaddafi.

As for the size of his army, one must remember that while our advance was halted by a sandstorm, we were destroying the Republican Guard with JDAMs. It is also worth noting, that rather than fight overwhelming force, they took off their uniforms and reverted to guerrilla tactics.

They killed more U.S. troops that way than they could during the war proper.

The war in Iraq also has attracted a load of terrorists and jihadis from outside the country. I'd rather fight them there than have them here.

Posted by: AST at May 31, 2004 at 01:03 PM

The way terrorists operates nowadays, as soon as they take hostages, you have to respond on the basis that the hostages are already dead. Don't fuck around, don't negotiate, just take the pricks down, as quickly as you can marshal the necessary force. After that, every person you get out alive is a bonus.

Posted by: steve at May 31, 2004 at 01:42 PM


Could you take one side or the other?

--Saddam needed removing, but given what we now know about his forces,
there 'might' have been a cheaper way of doing it.--


Posted by: Mike H. at May 31, 2004 at 02:00 PM

Saddam needed removing, but given what we now know about his forces,
there 'might' have been a cheaper way of doing it.--

He's obviously referring to the "Treacher Strategy"

Good idea! First we'll coax Saddam out of his bunker with a trail of delicious candy. Then, once his belly is full and he's all sleepy and happy, we'll calmly explain that we don't approve of what he's been doing and it's not very nice and we wish he'd stop. And he'll be like, "Whoa, I never thought of it that way. You guys are my friends! I like you!" And then everybody will hug and cry, and then get a little embarrassed about crying, and then make some jokes to cover up being embarrassed. And then a beautiful rainbow will appear, and a shy unicorn will walk down it, and Saddam will ride the unicorn to the North Pole, and he'll spend the rest of his life helping Santa make wonderful toys for all the good little girls and boys, and there'll be hot chocolate, and, and, and, and nobody will ever ever die again for any reason ever. THE END

Posted by: Quentin George at May 31, 2004 at 05:59 PM

Kneejerk, casting aside the error in identifying Iranians as Sunni, do you really, truly believe the US could have garnered ANY support at all to invade Saudi Arabia?

And if you think toppling Saddam inflamed Islamists and the general kooks of the world, what do you think the reaction would have been to American troops marching through the streets of Mecca and Medina?

If you think there are fanatics and leftists demanding the head of Bush now, what do you seriously believe would follow your hypothetical Saudi invasion?

Think that invading Saudi Arabia would instantly quell every single fanatic in the world?

Nope. The radical umbrella covers many countries, and extends as far from the middle east as Indonesia. As does its funding, training and recruitment.

Talk about people who "people who clean their teeth with a banjo". Sheesh.

It seems the new way to combat "hawks" is to become an uber-hawk yourself, and condone invading every single country EXCEPT Iraq...

Posted by: Quentin George at May 31, 2004 at 06:05 PM

No, I did not suggest you invade Saudi Arabia, they're an ally... but they have internal terrorist groups, as do Indonesa and Pakistan.

That's your problem, you're so hooked on miltary options, you can only see it as some gung ho, kick ass solution to everything. There's the intelligence failure.
Try thinking first, who is my enemy, how do I find and eliminate them?
As it is, clumsy displays of force just piss off the people you need support from.
For history buffs, check out how the British defeated the communist insurgents in Malaya in the 50s.
Fight smarter!

Posted by: The Knee Guy at May 31, 2004 at 09:09 PM


I'm glad you brought that up about intelligence failures.
This is like a day and a half after the government raised the terrorist threat level to condition orange.
Last time the threat level was orange, Nov 8th. Last time a dead American was dragged through the streets in Saudi Arabia.

What was it we were talking about? Oh ya,intelligence failures. Seems like our Intel guys are getting Al Queda's marching orders before their jihadi foot soldiers do.

Posted by: Papertiger at May 31, 2004 at 11:37 PM

Fortunately, the laws in SA keep all foreign residents helpfully unarmed, thus making all this easier for the jihahdis. When you are armed and know you victims are not, it's easier to be brave. Long live gun control!

Posted by: Hucklebuck at June 1, 2004 at 04:54 AM