DUBAI, United Arab Emirates -- The Saudi police minister has claimed Jews were behind the Sept. 11 attacks because they have benefited from subsequent criticism of Islam and Arabs, according to media reports.
Interior Minister Prince Nayef made the remarks in the Arabic-language Kuwaiti daily Assyasah last month. The latest edition of Ain al-Yaqeen, a weekly Internet magazine devoted to Saudi issues, posted the Assyasah interview and its own English translation.
"We know that the Jews have manipulated the Sept. 11 incidents and turned American public opinion against Arabs and Muslims," Prince Nayef was quoted as saying in the Arabic text, while Ain al Yaqeen's English version referred to "Zionists" instead of "Jews."
"We still ask ourselves: Who has benefited from Sept. 11 attacks? I think they (the Jews) were the protagonists of such attacks," Nayef was quoted as saying. Nayef's spokesman, Saud al-Musaibeeh, did not respond to repeated requests for confirmation the minister had been quoted accurately.
The Internet magazine's English translation of the comments began to attract attention in the United States just as the Saudis launched a new public relations campaign to address accusations the kingdom is soft on terrorism and inculcates extremist thought among its citizens.
"The Saudis are telling us that they are an ally in the war on terror while their top government officials are still blaming ... the Jews and denying that 15 Saudis took part in the attacks on New York and the Pentagon," Rep. Eliot Engel, a New York Democrat, said in Washington earlier this week.
"The Bush administration continually defends Saudi Arabia as a friend of the United States and a committed partner in the war on terror," Engel said. "Does this Saudi minister sound like a partner in the war on terror?"
Sen. Charles Schumer, also a New York Democrat, wrote this week in a letter to the Saudi ambassador to the United States that "the interior minister's comments only serve to confirm American suspicions about the Saudi government's commitment to the war on terror."
Nayef's remarks echoed rumors that have been heard in the Arab world since the attacks -- but this time they are attributed to the man in charge of Saudi investigations into the attacks.
The Saudi minister was quoted in the interview as saying his kingdom is currently detaining some 100 terror suspects for interrogation. He added that the suspects "will either apologize for their mistakes and change their course or will be referred to trial."
The United States has blamed the Sept. 11 attacks on al-Qaida terror network, whose chief, Osama bin Laden, was stripped of his Saudi citizenship in 1994. It took Saudi Arabia five months after the attacks to acknowledge that 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudis. The Gulf kingdom, a close U.S. ally, has never officially held al-Qaida responsible for the attacks and usually refers to the hijackers as people "enticed and deluded" into committing their crimes.
Several statements attributed to bin Laden aired by the Qatar-based Al-Jazeera television claimed responsibility for the attacks. A statement attributed to al-Qaida's "political bureau" that appeared Monday on an Islamic web site listed the Sept. 11 attacks as among the successful operations carried out by the terrorist group against the United States.
In the interview, Nayef said he could not believe that bin Laden and his network, including Saudi participants, worked alone.
He was quoted as saying he believed terrorist networks have links to "foreign intelligence agencies that work against Arab and Muslim interests, chief among them is the Israeli Mossad."
On the net: www.ain-al-yaqeen.com