Israel is not the only country building a fence to try to keep terrorists out. An anti-terror fence is also going up in . . . Saudi Arabia. From The Independent, :
Saudi Arabia, one of the most vocal critics in the Arab world of Israel’s “security fence” in the West Bank, is quietly emulating the Israeli example by erecting a barrier along its porous border with Yemen.
The barrier is part of a plan to erect what will be an electronic surveillance system along the length of the kingdom’s frontiers – land, air and sea. The project, involving fencing and electronic detection equipment, has been in the planning stages for several years. It may cost up to $8.57bn (Â£4.58bn). Behind the plan is a deep-seated lack of trust in the Yemeni authorities’ ability to arrest infiltrators before they make it into Saudi territory.
A Yemeni delegation arrived in Jeddah for emergency talks on the issue yesterday, after submitting an official complaint. Saudi officials have combated drug, alcohol, luxury-goods and arms smuggling across the mountainous and porous border with Yemen for years. And they have paid a high price in their battles with the smugglers.
In 2002, 36 Saudi border guards were killed in Jizan, a southern Saudi border town. The government says the smugglers provide the explosives and weapons used by radical Islamists inside the kingdom, who carried out two suicide attacks against civilian targets last year, killing more than 50 and injuring hundreds.
The perpetrators of earlier terrorist attacks in Saudi Arabia, spanning at least a decade, also used explosives from Yemen, state-controlled Saudi media has reported. They include the 1993 attack in the Bahah region, 200 miles south of Jeddah, in which 10 people were killed after a bomb was thrown into a mosque during Friday prayers, and a blast in Riyadh, the capital, in 1995 at an American compound, which killed nine.
Since the bombings on 12 May last year, Saudi border patrols have continued to seize large quantities of weapons and explosives daily – including more than 90,000 rounds of ammunition, grenades, more than 2,000 sticks of dynamite, hundreds of bazookas and more than 1,200 other weapons.
Sa’ada, 25 miles south of the border, has the biggest of Yemen’s numerous arms souks. Here an 85mm surface-to-surface missile can be bought for $2,500. Anti-aircraft missiles are no longer on display, but they can still be had for the right price. The row of shops attracts thousands of buyers each day for weapons from China, Russia, Belgium, Spain and even Israel – a country Yemen does not recognise or trade with. There are about 60 million weapons owned by the 20-million strong Yemeni population.
Osama bin Laden’s roots straddle both sides of the border. He was born and raised in Saudi Arabia, but has strong ancestral ties to Yemen – a tribal and largely lawless country, where all males past puberty outside the main cities openly bear arms. Yemen remains the place that al-Qa’ida operatives see as home. But Saudi Arabia is the source of ideological inspiration and financial support. Many are products of the Saudi education system, which breeds extremism.
Al-Qa’ida’s leader in Yemen, the Saudi-born and educated Mohammed Hamdi al-Ahdal, who was arrested last year, is a case in point. He has revealed under interrogation to Yemeni authorities that Saudis and Yemenis were involved in funding two major terrorist attacks in Yemen – against the USS Cole in October 2000, which killed 17 American sailors, and the French supertanker Limburg in October 2002.