Diplomats under threat

Following the attack on a British embassy vehicle in Sana'a on Wednesday, Asharq al-Awsat newspaper has some interesting titbits about the militants' choice of targets.

"The British embassy in Yemen has suffered the most number of terrorist attacks of all the foreign embassies," it says. The Saudi embassy is the second most-targeted, and the US embassy comes third:

"The information obtained by Asharq al-Awsat from informed sources also revealed that the Saudi embassy in Sana'a received between one and three warnings a week of a possible terrorist attack, and that the British embassy receives a higher number – on average – of such warnings.

"According to the information, the most recent period has not seen any attacks being made against Saudi interests in Yemen, although the Saudi embassy remains a constant target. The information also revealed that not one week passes without the Saudi embassy in Sana'a receiving threats of attack."

This, I think, provides a useful antidote to the idea that jihadists are preoccupied with attacking the west and westerners. Muslim regimes that have "gone astray" are as much a part of their focus – if not more so. 

While the jihadists derive much of their ideology from Saudi Wahhabi religious teaching, the Saudi regime – which in turn bases its claim to legitimacy on Wahhabi teaching – is also one of their principal enemies. This was explored in more detail in a survey of jihadist websites by the Quillliam thinktank which 
I wrote about last week.

Regarding Wednesday's attack on the British vehicle, the Yemeni authorities announced yesterday that they have arrested seven suspects. I could be wrong, but this sounds more like a round-up of known militants from the area where it happened than the result of painstaking detective work. It sends a signal that the authorities are doing something about it, and it means they won't have to deal with letters from the British ambassador asking if they have caught anyone yet.

Posted by Brian Whitaker, 8 October 2010.