Saudi nationals join fighting against U.S. in Iraq

Wednesday, June 11, 2003

Saudi nationals have joined the Sunni insurgency against U.S. troops in Iraq. At least one U.S. soldier daily has been killed over the last few weeks.

Meanwhile, a U.S.based Saudi opposition organization has reported that two Saudi nationals have been killed in the sporadic fighting, Middle East Newsline reported.

Last week, the U.S. Army's Third Division sent its 2nd Brigade to launch an operation in several Sunni cities to quell the insurgency.

U.S. officials confirmed that Saudi nationals have financed and participated in the Sunni insurgency. They said elements in Saudi Arabia view the U.S. military presence in Iraq as that of the Soviet occupation of Afganistan in the 1980s.
"They're not going to go back to where they came from until they are either killed or captured," Joseph Collins, deputy assistant secretary of defense for stability operations, said. Collins termed the fighters in Iraq "jihadists" but did not mention from where they came.

Western diplomatic sources said members of the royal family have helped finance the Sunni insurgency against Iraq. They said they have helped purchase weapons and send Saudi nationals to fight in Iraq.

More than 100 Saudi nationals have been sent to help the Sunni insurgency in Iraq, the sources said. They said this includes the Saudis who have played a role in attacks on U.S. combat forces in Faluja, located 65 kilometers west of Baghdad and regarded as the center of the Sunni resistance.

On Wednesday, the London-based Al Hayat daily reported that U.S. troops captured nearly 400 suspected Iraqi insurgents in a search operation in several Sunni cities.

Earlier, the Washington-based Saudi Information Agency reported that two Saudi fighters were killed in clashes with U.S. troops in May. The agency, directed by the Saudi opposition, identified the Saudi nationals as Faisal Al Otaibi and Taher Ashumari.

Saudi Arabia's state-supported clergy has encouraged Saudi nationals to volunteer to fight in Iraq against the United States. Several of the clerics have termed anti-U.S. operations a religious duty.

The Saudi opposition agency identified several Saudi clerics in the forefront of support for the Sunni insurgency against the United States in Iraq. They were Sheik Nasser Al Omar and Sheik Safar Al Hawali.

Ahmed Chalabi, head of the Iraqi National Congress, said the Sunni insurgency has also been funded by deposed President Saddam Hussein. Chalabi said Saddam has offered a bounty for any U.S. soldier killed.

"Now, he's put a price on American soldiers," Chalabi told the New York-based Council on Foreign Relations on Tuesday. "He will pay bounty for every American soldier killed in Iraq now. This has been spread around in the western part of the country."