Saudis' experience with jihadists have helped it to fine tune surveillance tools: Experts

Beirut (Lebanon), Oct. 31 (ANI): Western intelligence officials have claimed that Saudi Arabia own experience with jihadists has helped them develop powerful surveillance tools and a broad network of informers that allows it to help other countries in the global battle against terrorism.

For many in the West, Saudi Arabia remains better known as a source of terrorism than as a partner in defeating it.

The Saudis have brought similar intelligence reports about imminent threats to at least two other European countries in the past few years, and have played an important role in identifying terrorists in Pakistan, Iraq, Somalia and Kuwait, according to Saudi and Western intelligence officials.

"This latest role is one in a series of Saudi intelligence contributions. They can be helpful because so much is going on in their backyard, and because they have a limitless budget to develop their abilities," the New York Times quoted Thomas Hegghammer, a research fellow at the Norwegian Defense Research Establishment, as saying.

The Saudis have stepped up their intelligence-gathering efforts in Yemen since last year, when Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula came close to assassinating Prince Muhammad bin Nayef, who runs the Saudi counter-terrorism program.

The Qaeda group's main goal is to topple the Saudi monarchy, which they consider illegitimate and a slave to the West.

"The Saudis have really stepped up their efforts in Yemen, and I'm under the impression that they've infiltrated Al Qaeda, so that they can warn the Americans, the French, the British and others about plots before they happen," said Theodore Karasik, an analyst at the Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis in Dubai.

Saudi officials do not comment on delicate intelligence matters, but the Saudi role in a shadowy intelligence war in Yemen's hinterlands has emerged in accounts from observers in Yemen and from Al Qaeda itself.

Saudi Arabia's counter-terrorism program differs from its Western counterparts in striking ways.

It includes a familiar "hard" element of commando teams that kill terrorists, along with vastly expanded surveillance. Cameras continuously watch the streets of major Saudi cities, and most Internet traffic goes through a central point that facilitates monitoring.

The program also has a softer side aimed at re-educating jihadists and weaving them back into Saudi society. The government runs a rehabilitation program for terrorists, including art therapy and efforts to find jobs and wives for the former convicts.

Saudi officials defend their overall record, noting that the program now has 349 graduates, of whom fewer than 20 have returned to terrorism. (ANI)

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