Saudis to Bust Businessmen Tied to Terror

The Saudi government is preparing to arrest and seize the assets of several prominent Saudi businessmen suspected of providing financial contributions to al Qaeda and other terrorist entities, ABCNEWS has learned.

Saudi security officials convinced the royal family to move forcefully against the alleged financiers after discovering documents in a terrorist safe house in May. The documents outlined plots to assassinate several Saudi ministers, including Interior Minister Prince Naif Bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, sources said.

Although the documents did not directly link the financiers to the assassination plots, security officials interpreted them as evidence of the increasingly active, ambitious and capable nature of terrorists operating in Saudi Arabia.

Sources did not reveal the names of the financial entrepreneurs being targeted by the investigation, but said to expect the arrests to take place in the next few weeks.

The U.S. government tried to persuade the Saudi monarchy to take a more aggressive stance against Saudi individuals and nongovernment organizations allegedly involved in financing religiously motivated violent groups, after an international financial probe was launched in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Of the 19 men who hijacked and crashed four airliners, 15 were identified as Saudi citizens.

"The president believes Saudi Arabia has been a good partner in the war against terrorism, but even a good partner like Saudi Arabia can do more in the war against terrorism, and that involves the financial front, diplomatic front, et cetera," White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said last November.

Register for weekly Insider e-mail updates here.

Saudi Swift Justice

But it took the May 12 terrorist bombings of three residential compounds in Riyadh, and the related discovery from that cell's safe house suggesting that the Saudi royal family was also an intended target, to spur the Saudi government to take action against the suspected supporters of the terrorist activity, Saudi sources told ABCNEWS.

Saudi Arabia is well known for its own brand of swift justice once it determines to crack down on terrorist activity within its borders. When terrorists car-bombed the Saudi National Guard Military Installation in Riyadh in November 1995, killing five American military and civilian advisers as well as two others, Saudi security forces quickly rounded up the suspects and killed them — before U.S. investigators had the opportunity to begin their own investigation.

Last Saturday, Saudi security forces carried out two raids in the holy city of Mecca, in what the London-based Arabic newspaper Asharq Al Awsat described as a violent shootout, killing at least five suspects.

The raid also led to the arrest of four others, including two Chadians, an Egyptian and a Saudi. Asharq Al Awsat reported that 72 bombs, machine guns, armor and chemical elements were found in a booby-trapped apartment. At least two Saudi security officers were killed in the battle, the newspaper said.