2003 Transcript

SAIO Director Nail Al-Jubeir on CNN with Soledad O'Brien

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR:  More now on the fight against terror in Saudi Arabia. Joining from us Washington is the director of information for the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia, Nail Al-Jubeir. t's nice to see you, Mr. Jubeir. Thank for joining us.

NAIL AL-JUBEIR, SAUDI SPOKESMAN: Thank you for having me.

O'BRIEN: My pleasure. First, your theory as to the why behind the attacks. Many theories have been floated, one that the goal was sort of a general chaos. Two, to attack symbolically the royal family. Or, three, actually a mistake. The intended target was actually Americans, and it was sort of a big mistake. What's your theory in this?

AL-JUBEIR: Well, the whole idea is to bring havoc and kill as many people as they can. If that was a mistake, it means that we have been able to disrupt the intelligence-gathering operations in Saudi Arabia. This community has been Arabs for quite sometime. So anybody living in that area would know the predominant people living there were Arabs. So they probably got instructions somewhere telling them this may be American target, but they were wrong in this case.

The other thing is, if their intent to is kill Americans, it doesn't answer the question as why are they involved in activities in Makkah? Why do they have bomb factories in the holy city of Makkah that only Muslims go to? Why do they have booby-trapped Qur'ans in Makkah? So that sort of undermines the argument that, oh, well, we made a mistake, we were trying to go after Americans, but that doesn't explain the criminal activities involved in Makkah.

O'BRIEN: So what do you believe is really what happened? Do you think in fact it was an attack, a symbolic attack on the royal family?

AL-JUBEIR: It's an attack on humanity. Killing innocent civilians to say, oh, we attacked the royal family. There are royals all over Saudi Arabia. There are other places they could have gone to if they wanted, but they targeted civilians, people of a soft target, and that was a soft target. They're going after soft targets, where they can have the most damage and this is the case. The 122 civilians that were injured, mostly children, a third of those who were killed were children. So their target is humanity. It has nothing to do with the royal family, in terms of going after the royal family, in this particular attack.

O'BRIEN: Many people have said if al Qaeda starts to go after soft targets and Arabs in Arab countries, well then, they run the risk of losing all their support. Are you saying you don't think they care?

AL-JUBEIR: I don't think they care, because they don't have as much support as people think they have. We have been rounding them up. We've arrested over 600 of those. About 2,000 have been questioned. We've disrupted their operations in Saudi Arabia. We were not successful in disrupting this one, but other areas in Makkah were disrupted. So if their intent is to kill civilians, that's what they're after.

The latest shootout in Makkah, the two people who committed suicide in Makkah, is an indication they were trying to carry out criminal acts in Makkah. So it has nothing to do with the royal family. It's just havoc and kill as many people as they can.

O'BRIEN: Here is what Senator Joe Biden had to say about this. I want to a quick piece of tape for you.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. JOE BIDEN (D), DELAWARE: The truth of the matter is maybe this will wake up the Saudi regime one more click, and then stop the indirect support of al Qaeda, stop building madrasas and get serious about and understand this is about international terror against nation states, not just about the United States. (END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: It sounds to some degree as if he's saying that Saudi Arabia is now reaping what it has sown.

AL-JUBEIR: Well, I think I have respect for the senator. He has been forceful in his policy on the Middle East. I think he's wrong in this case. We've been very active in trying to pursue al Qaeda. We have been very active in trying to shut down any possible funding. We worked with the Americans. We established a joint task force on financial issues, where we'll track the money. We have a joint task force working in Saudi Arabia to try to track some of these criminal elements. So we have asked for American help, and we have received American help, so there is a joint effort in trying to track these groups, not only in Saudi Arabia, but all over the world.

O'BRIEN: There are reports that Saudi Arabia is expecting another attack, another terror attack, imminently, because of some of the information that's coming out. I guess there's a lot of chatter, as they put it. How do you possibly prepare for that?

AL-JUBEIR: Well, it all has to be with human intelligence. We have foiled a number of attacks. Unfortunately, we were not successful in the last one. But we have to do the best, we have to go after them mercilessly, try to track them down. We have exposed and arrested a number of cells inside the Kingdom as well as outside the Kingdom, and now we have to do the best.

It is a joint effort on the part of the people and the security forces. The citizens have been handing in suspects. In one cell in Riyadh, the neighbors suspected the house, something unusual going on in the house. It was rented supposedly by a family, but yet no women were coming and leaving the house. That was an indication that something was wrong, and they reported it. We went there, and we found weapons in there, and we found suspected terrorists hiding in the house. So it's a global effort and we have appealed to the citizens to help us in this.

O'BRIEN: Director of information from the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia, Nail Al-Jubeir. Thanks for joining us. It's nice to have you. Thank you.

AL-JUBEIR: Thank you for having me.