Saudis reported concerned about security despite rebel executions
Beirut, Lebanon — Saudi Arabia's pro-Western ruling family reportedly is still concerned about the aftereffects of the November takeover of the Grand Mosque in Mecca. This is despite the execution of 63 participants in the Grand Mosque action in various Saudi cities on Jan. 9. The mosque is Islam's holiest shrine.
Among those executed was Juhaiman ihn Muhammad Saif, described as the military commander and philosopher of the extreme Islamic fundamentalists who occupied the mosque. (The man they had proclaimed as the awaited Mahdi or Muslim messiah, identified as Muhammad ibn Abdullah Al-Qahtani, was killed during the fighting in and around the mosque.)
One indication of concern over the security situation inside the Saudi kingdom, it was learned here, were the widespread changes made throughout December in the command of the country's Bedouin-dominated National Guard.
According to some reports, the rebel military boss, Juhaiman Saif, had until recently been a lieutenant in the National Guard.
One communist paper here has reported that around seven people, including one American, were killed in demonstrations in Saudi Arabia's oil-rich eastern province at the end of November as the mosque affair was drawing to a close.
These reports cannot yet be confirmed, but the general air of internal unease in the kingdom may be one explanation for a perceived reluctance on behalf of the ruling family to give the United States greater support over the Soviet intrusion into Afghanistan.
The Saudis have condemned what they describe as "international communism's attempt to dominate the Muslim world," but so far they have left it to other Muslim countries, such as Pakistan, to spearhead the worldwide Islamic response to the Soviet Union.
There have been recent signs, too, of growing impatience among the traditionally pro- Western Saudis toward the US.
In an interview in the generally leftist paper, As-Safir, Crown Prince Fahd ibn Abdul- Aziz spoke favorably of what he termed "a positive development in relations between Saudi Arabia and the Soviet Union."
This interview was conducted before the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The question now is to what extent Prince Fahd and his brothers have changed their views since then.
As far as the executions are concerned, beheading is the normal means of capital punishment in Saudi Arabia. Interior Minister Prince Nayif ibn Abdul-Aziz explained in a recent press interview here that in carrying out decapitations, "We carry out the dictates of the Koran and the will of the Prophet."
In a statement in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, Jan. 9, Prince Nayif said a total of 259 people were killed during the two weeks of battles between the mosque's occupiers and the Saudi security forces.
This was a considerable revision upward of previous official casualty reports. Prince Nayif said it included 12 officers and 115 other ranks from the security forces and 25 innocent pilgrims, along witn 102 of the mosque's attackers.
Twenty-three women and children who participated in the occupation of the mosque and 19 of the adult male occupiers were spared execution and given prison or reform- school sentences.
Prince Nayif said the attackers used rifles and Czech-made machine guns smuggled into Saudi Arabia during the war threatened neighboring North Yemen in the early 1960s. Some guns also were smuggled in during the 1975-76 Lebanese civil war.
An official announcement from the Saudi Interior Ministry said those beheaded included 41 Saudi nationals, 10 Egyptians, 6 South Yemenis, 3 Kuwaitis, and one each from North Yemen , Sudan, and Iraq.
In another As-Safir press interview published here Jan. 10, the Saudi Interior Minister said the mosque attackers categorically denied American press reports that they had hoped to find Saudi King Khalid ibn Abdul- Aziz when they stormed the mosque, and hold him captive.