Lahore, Dec.17: To neutralize al Qaeda from taking out a terror strike on Muslim pilgrims in Haj, a huge counter-terrorism operation has been taken up by the Saudi Arabian govt.
al Qaeda has come up with ideas to launch a bloody assault during Haj, according to intelligence agencies. Every year over three million Muslims flocked to Mecca. In this regard, the Saudi Arabian govt deployed 20,000 ground forces, flights of combat helicopters and a large number of armoured vehicles at key locations.
US sources said strict vigilance was increased in and around Mecca. The site was monitored by 10,000 security cameras and Saudi agents mixed in with the pilgrims. No four-wheel vehicles were allowed because of fears of car bombings. The pilgrims who did not have current permits were deported.
Saudi security forces began pre- emptive raids on suspected al Qaeda cells three months ago according to a former senior CIA official. Several hundred suspects were taken into custody, he said.
The report quoted US officials as saying intelligence co-operation between the US and Saudi Arabia had grown by leaps and bounds from the Saudi stonewalling days of the 1996 terror attacks on Saudi Arabia's Khobar Towers.
Saudi's efforts to disperse and disrupt al Qaeda had known no rest for the last few years.