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Sat 19 Jul 2014 03:19 PM

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Saudi imams who did not condemn al Qaeda attack face probe

Islamic Affairs Ministry is reportedly investigating 17 imams in Riyadh for not using Friday sermons to denounce attack

Saudi imams who did not condemn al Qaeda attack face probe
(Photo for illustrative purposes only)

Saudi Arabia's Islamic Affairs Ministry is investigating 17 mosque imams in the capital Riyadh for not using their Friday sermons to denounce an Al Qaeda attack this month, the English daily Arab News reported on Saturday.

The conservative Islamic kingdom has kept a close eye on mosque sermons for evidence of militancy since last decade, when Al Qaeda staged a series of attacks inside Saudi Arabia that killed hundreds.

The authorities are worried that anger at the violence in Syria and Iraq, coupled with hardline teachings by some local religious leaders could inspire a new generation of militants to again attack domestic targets.

Arab News cited Tawfiq Al Sudairi, an under-secretary at the Islamic Affairs Ministry, as saying the imams were under investigation "for allegedly failing to highlight the incident in their sermons".

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) raided Sharurah, a small Saudi frontier town, from its base in Yemen early this month, killing four border guards and another Saudi citizen before all the attackers were killed or injured.

The attack was the militant group's first inside the kingdom since 2009 when it attempted to assassinate Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, who was then the kingdom's security chief but is now interior minister.

On Friday, the Interior Ministry said its infrastructure facilities were secure after local media reports that an Iraq-based militant had warned his family to leave their homes because of a planned attack on the kingdom.

The ministry's spokesman was quoted in Arab News as saying those reports were incorrect, but that security had been strengthened around all strategic facilities due to the chaos in Iraq.