Yesterday the Riyadh Criminal Court in Saudi Arabia convicted five Saudi men of being members of al Qaeda who carried out violent attacks on security and residential targets in the kingdom. Three of the al Qaeda operatives were sentenced to death after being charged with involvement in the May 12, 2003 attacks on residential compounds in Riyadh that killed 26 people of various nationalities, including eight Americans, and injured nearly 200. The three were accused of purchasing vehicles and setting them up as VBIEDs to be used in the bombing of the residential compound.
On May 12, 2003, four vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices exploded at three different residential compounds in Riyadh. These compounds employed and housed a large number of Westerners, specifically American and British citizens. At the time, the US government’s Rewards for Justice program offered a reward of up to $5 million for information leading to the arrest of those al Qaeda operatives involved.
The five al Qaeda members were also charged with training with the terrorist organization in its secret locations, aiding in the implementation of terrorist activities, and purchasing a vehicle with forged documents. The militants possessed a surprisingly large arsenal of weapons, including machine guns, pistols, hand grenades and even RPGs and missiles of the SAM-7 variety. The court’s decision indicated that the militants assisted a wider al Qaeda network by renting villas, apartments, and guesthouses to accommodate other terrorist operatives.
The other two defendants, who were sentenced to jail terms, had also been charged with killing members of Saudi security forces on two separate occasions. One of the two was sentenced to 17 years in prison, while the other was sentenced to time served and released in light of his medical condition. None of the five defendants’ names were disclosed in the media reports on the case.