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6 Once-Radical Saudi Clerics Condemn Attacks

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From Associated Press

Six Saudi clerics who once espoused Islamic radicalism have condemned a wave of attacks on Westerners, part of the kingdom’s efforts to rally its people against Al Qaeda’s campaign to oust the ruling family.

The U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia met Monday with relatives of two Americans who were the latest victims of militant attacks: Kenneth Scroggs, who was gunned down in his garage, and Paul M. Johnson, who was kidnapped, reportedly after being drugged.

Ambassador James C. Oberwetter said he expressed his condolences to Scroggs’ widow and gave Johnson’s wife “my hopes for his safe return.”

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Oberwetter said he told the relatives that Saudi authorities had assured him they were “doing everything possible to resolve this kidnapping case.”

A group identifying itself as Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has claimed responsibility for the slaying and the kidnapping, as well as other recent attacks.

U.S. and Saudi officials say the attacks aim to drive off foreign workers, on whom Saudi Arabia’s crucial oil and technology sectors rely.

The Saudi government allowed the six clerics -- all of whom have past links to militants and have served prison time -- to issue their anti-violence statement on the state news agency.

At least two of the clerics, Safar Abdul Rahman Hawali and Salman Awdah, were once close to Osama bin Laden. Bin Laden praised them in videotapes a few years ago, thanking them for their support and for “enlightening” Muslim youth.

In their statement, the clerics called the attacks “a heinous crime.”

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