29 May 2003

Saudi Arabia, Morocco Arrest Attack 'Masterminds'
Wednesday said they had arrested the alleged masterminds of bombings earlier this month that killed 77 people and sparked fresh fears al Qaeda had regrouped for more attacks.

Saudi Arabia said five people wanted in the May 12 bombings of three expatriate housing compounds in Riyadh were arrested in the Muslim holy city of Medina.

"We believe that one of them is a main mastermind of the blasts," a Saudi source told Reuters without giving further details.

The daily Okaz reported the five were arrested at an Internet cafe and the alleged mastermind was a Saudi who was among 19 men wanted by authorities on terrorism charges after a shoot-out with police in the capital this month.

After the Bali bombing (despite the prime minister's brief effort to revive the Howard doctrine of Australia as deputy sheriff) the Indonesian and Australian police launched a conventional criminal investigation. The alleged bombers are now on trial. Apparently the Moroccan and Saudi police are having similar success.

A War on Terror allows lots of photo ops and lots of chances to demonise political opponents. Somehow I get the feeling that conventional police work would give a lot less legroom for political manipulation. Admitting that 11 September was a police, security and intelligence failure would also point the spotlight right back at those responsible for predicting and preventing terrorist attacks.

The Amnesty annual report argues that the War on Terror, by making national security the sole test of any governmental action, has significantly reduced human rights.

Human rights activists continue to face new challenges. The war on Iraq has dominated the international agenda, diverting attention from other vital human rights issues. "Forgotten" conflicts have taken a heavy toll on human rights and human lives ? in C�te d'Ivoire, Colombia, Burundi, Chechnya and Nepal.

"Iraq and Israel and the Occupied Territories are in the news ? Ituri in the Democratic Republic of Congo is not, despite the imminent threat of genocide, said Irene Khan, Amnesty International's Secretary General. "Drawing attention to 'hidden' crises, protecting the rights of the 'forgotten victims' is the biggest challenge we face today."

Governments have spent billions to strengthen national security and the "war on terror". Yet for millions of people, the real sources of insecurity are corruption, repression, discrimination, extreme poverty and preventable diseases.

I wonder why we're conducting a big-W War and not a conventional criminal investigation?

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