Saudi diplomat killed in Karachi, Taliban claims terrorist operation

Martyr Hassan Misfer al-Qahtani funeral held in Riyadh

Attack strongly condemned regionally and internationally

Saudi Arabia starts trial on the Yanbu terrorist cell

Bahrain’s prime minister: Zero tolerance with anyone who struck the nation

U.S. shares information it gets with several countries

Moscow says understood Bin Laden liquidation

Gunmen on a motorbike shot and killed a Saudi diplomat as he was driving in Pakistan's largest city on Monday, just days after two hand grenades were tossed at the Arab state's consulate building, police in Karachi said.

The police believe the primary motive was sectarian tension between Islam's Sunni and Shiite branches. But the attack also follows the killing of Saudi-born Osama bin Laden in an American raid on May 2.

Al-Qaeda is a fierce opponent of the Saudi regime and has sworn revenge for the death of bin Laden. But no one immediately claimed responsibility for the diplomat's slaying.

A spokesman for the Pakistani Taliban, the country's most high profile militant group, called The Associated Press to say it did not kill the diplomat.

The spokesman, Ahsanullah Ahsan, added: "Although we believe Saudi Arabia is an even bigger slave to America than Pakistan, we are not involved in the killing."

Tariq Dharejo, a police investigator in Karachi, said officers believe the shooting was motivated by anger over Saudi Arabia's decision to send troops to Bahrain to quell protests by Shiites, who comprise 70 percent of the population there but are excluded from key positions in the Sunni-dominated government. Saudi Arabia is almost entirely Sunni.

Sunni-Shiite tensions trace back to a seventh century dispute over the true heir to Islam's Prophet Muhammad.

Monday's attack took place not far from the consulate building.

The diplomat — who was driving a silver Toyota Corona and was alone — appeared to be on his way to work, said police officer Zameer Husain Abbasi. He said a 9 mm pistol was used in the assault.

The victim, identified as Hasan Misfer al-Qhatani, was a member of the security staff at the consulate, said Iqbal Mehmood, Karachi's deputy inspector of police. He said the shooting was carried out by two men on a motorbike and appeared to be linked to last week's grenade attack on the mission, which caused some damage but no injuries.

The Saudi Foreign Ministry condemned the diplomat's killing and said in a statement issued Monday that Saudi Arabia has asked Pakistani authorities to increase security measures around the Saudi embassy and consulate in Pakistan. Prince Saudi al-Faisal, the statement said, gave condolences to the family of the slain diplomat.

Officials at the Saudi mission were not immediately available for comment.

In a statement, Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani condemned the attack and "expressed deep grief and sorrow over the tragic death of the Saudi diplomat."

Pakistan's alliance with Sunni rulers in the Middle East has come under the spotlight since the uprisings there this year. A company with strong links to the country's army announced it was sending 1,000 Pakistanis to Bahrain to help its security forces put down the Shiite uprising.

Karachi is a violent southern city of 18 million people that has been a cauldron of ethnic, sectarian and political tensions.

Saudi Arabia has funded hard-line Sunnis, Iran has channeled money to Shiite groups, and in the 1980s and 1990s the country was the scene of an effective proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia, with Karachi an especially bloody battleground.

Several of Pakistan's Sunni extremist groups also are allied with al-Qaeda and the Taliban, who view Shiites as infidels.

Saudi Arabia stripped bin Laden of citizenship and has fought al-Qaeda. But money from some of its citizens is believed to help bankroll the terrorist network, which has carried out scores of attacks inside Pakistan over the last 10 years.

The body of Martyr Qahtani, a member of the staff of the Consulate General of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in Karachi who was assassinated on Monday morning while he was on his way to work, arrived in Riyadh last night.

At King Khalid International Airport, the body was received by Prince Mohammed bin Naif Ibn Abdulaziz, Assistant Minister of Interior for Security Affairs; Prince Khalid Ibn Saud Ibn Khalid, Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs; and Deputy of Ministry of Foreign Affairs for Protocol Affairs Ambassador Alaa El-Din Al-Askari.

On the private plane, the body was accompanied by Saudi Ambassador to Pakistan, Abdulaziz Al-Ghadeer.

In a press briefing, Prince Khalid Ibn Saud Ibn Khalid said, 'The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Pakistan enjoy strong relations at governmental and popular levels. The people of Pakistan have special love for the Kingdom, its people, and the land of the Two Holy Mosques. Consequently what has happened is strange and unexplained. We do not know who is the party that could have an interest inside Pakistan in targeting the Kingdom's mission and its staff'.

In response to a question on the Kingdom's participation in the investigation into the circumstances of the incident, the Prince pointed out that the Government of Pakistan has agreed on the participation of a Saudi Committee in the investigation, noting that the primary role in the investigation will be carried out by the Pakistani government.

On his part, the Security Spokesman of the Interior Ministry Major General Mansour Al-Turki said in a press statement, ' Sergeant Major Hassan Misfer Al-Qahtani has been one of security men assigned to guard Saudi diplomatic missions. He has been one among those who are keen to serve pilgrims. He has had the honor to do so in a number of Hajj seasons'.

He stressed that the Ministry of Interior will be keen on studying the security requirements of the Saudi Embassy and Consulate in Pakistan and providing the necessary advice for competent authorities at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to raise the levels of security for all diplomatic missions in Pakistan.

Funeral prayer will be performed for the deceased at King Khalid Mosque, in Riyadh, after Al-Zuhur (midday) prayer.

The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud made a telephone call to Misfer bin Mahdi Al-Qahtani through which he expressed his condolences and sympathy on the death of his son Hassan bin Misfer Al-Qahtani, a staff member of the Consulate General of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in Karachi.

Hassan Al-Qahtani was treacherously killed while performing his duty.

During the telephone conversation, the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques appealed to God Almighty to bestow His peace, and forgiveness upon the soul of the deceased and grant his family patience and solace.

For his part, Misfer bin Mahdi Al-Qahtani expressed deep appreciation and thanks to the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques for his parental feelings of parental, condolences and sympathy towards their son.

Meanwhile, a competent criminal court started in Riyadh this week the proceedings of a suit filed by the Commission for Investigation and General Prosecution against 11 accused of conspiring with four persons who committed a terrorist attack against the residence of the contractor of Yenbut company expansion project in Yanbu on 12/3/1425 H., killing five company personnel, including two Americans, two Britons and an Australian and injuring three others from Pakistan, USA and Canada in addition to the martyrdom of a Security man and the injury of 22 of security men and pedestrians before being killed by security men after a hot pursuit.

The deviant group associates were arrested later.

The session included a presentation of the accusations and authenticated confessions in addition to a review of the evidences against the accused.

The Court also listened to some few verbal defenses according to their request while the others were given time to send their defenses in writing to the court through lawyers or forward their demands to the Ministry of Justice to provide them with lawyers had they were unable to have them their own.

A number of Human Rights Commission members, a representative of the Saudi Press Agency and media representatives attended the session.

On the other hand, Bahrain's parliament voted on Tuesday to accept the resignations of the remaining seven Shiite opposition MPs, who had walked out along with 11 others in February in protest against violence.

The parliament announced "accepting the resignation of the remaining members (representing) Al-Wefaq Islamic Association in the chamber," BNA state news agency said.

The 18 MPs from the main Shiite political formation in the Shiite-majority kingdom had quit the parliament in February after security forces opened fire at demonstrators demanding political reforms.

In March, other MPs of the 40-member parliament accepted the resignation of 11 of the 18 MPs, while King Hamad announced by-elections to be held on September 24 to replace the resigned MPs.

Security forces cracked down in mid-March on a month-old protest dominated by Shiites who challenged the legitimacy of the rule of the Sunni Al-Khalifa dynasty.

Two former MPs, Matar Matar and Jawad Fayruz, were taken away by unknown gunmen earlier this month, according to the opposition, soon after losing parliamentary immunity.

Leaders of other opposition groups are being tried in a special court on charges including attempting to topple the monarchy and forming a terrorist group.

Four Shiites were sentenced to death and three others jailed for life by a military court for the alleged killing of two security men. Another was sentenced to seven years for an attempted murder of policemen during the protests.

Bahrain has come under strong criticism from international human rights organizations for its heavy-handed crackdown.

Meanwhile, Pakistan has launched four separate probes into Osama bin Laden's life and death on Pakistani soil, U.S. Senator John Kerry said on Tuesday, adding that Pakistan's intelligence chief has promised to tell him if it turns out someone in his agency knew bin Laden was there.

Pakistan, in what some U.S. officials said was a gesture to show it cared about helping the United States fight militants, arrested what it claimed was a "senior" al-Qaeda operative.

But U.S. officials were skeptical.

Kerry, just back from a trip to Pakistan, said there were four Pakistani investigations into the circumstances of the death of bin Laden, who was living in a compound in the garrison town of Abbottabad before U.S. forces killed him on May 2.

Kerry did not know when the probes might produce results, and noted that the United States was also sifting through evidence that could indicate whether Pakistan knew of bin Laden's whereabouts before his death.

"I do know this, that the head of Pakistani intelligence told me that if someone at their lower level knew it, they will find out," Kerry told reporters outside the Senate.

Washington's fragile ties with ally Islamabad took a beating after U.S. special forces flew in on a secret operation and killed bin Laden, nearly 10 years after he orchestrated the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States.

Irate U.S. lawmakers wary of Pakistan's promises of cooperation against militants in the region have threatened to cut off U.S. aid to the country.

Kerry is close to the Obama administration and has gone to Pakistan before to try and tamp down crises in relations with Washington. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Tuesday she had been in constant contact with Kerry during his trip.

Clinton said she had also spoken in recent days with Pakistan's top leaders, including President Asif Ali Zardari and army chief General Ashfaq Kayani, and talks would continue when U.S. special envoy Marc Grossman visits Islamabad soon.

Deputy CIA director Mike Morell is also going on that trip, which is expected to prepare for a visit by Clinton.

Pakistan's probes are being conducted by its army and intelligence agency and a civilian commission is being put together by parliament, a Senate aide told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity.

He said the fourth probe by the Pakistani air force is looking into how U.S. helicopters managed to fly to bin Laden's compound only 30 miles (50 km) from the Pakistani capital.

During his time in Pakistan, Kerry spent over four hours meeting army chief Kayani and Pakistani intelligence chief Lieutenant-General Ahmad Shuja Pasha, the Senate aide said.

Kerry told his committee Tuesday he hoped the United States and Pakistan could strengthen their relationship, adding that "they (Pakistan) rely on assistance in order to be able to wage this fight against extremism."

"I think there is great ability here to actually shift the dynamics of the entire relationship between Afghanistan-Pakistan, Pakistan-the United States, and all three and India, and ultimately change the longer-term strategic interests of the region," he said.

"But that will depend on quiet and effective diplomacy over the course of these next weeks," Kerry said.

U.S. officials played down the significance of a claim from Pakistani authorities about the arrest of a purported "senior" al Qaeda operative.

The Pakistani army said authorities in Karachi had arrested a "senior al Qaeda operative" from Yemen named Muhammad Ali Qasim Yaqub, also known as Abu Sohaib al Makki.

Reports from the region said Pakistan claims Yaqub had been in contact with al Qaeda leaders on the Afghanistan/Pakistan border.

Two U.S. officials said American government agencies were looking into the Pakistani Army's assertions, but that Yaqub was regarded at most as a mid-level figure in al-Qaeda's hierarchy. He is "not top tier," one of the officials said.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said on Wednesday the killing of Osama bin Laden would benefit Russia as it fights an Islamist insurgency along its southern flank.

"The liquidation of terrorists, even on the level of ... bin Laden, has a direct relationship to the level of security on the territory of our state," he said, in his first public comments on the al Qaeda leader's killing during a U.S. raid in Pakistan.

"It is no secret that the well known terrorist network al Qaeda has regularly sent and continues to send its emissaries to the territory of our state," Medvedev told his Security Council in televised remarks, a day before talks with Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari in Moscow.

Russia's government faces a growing insurgency in mostly Muslim provinces of the North Caucasus after two wars since 1994 involving federal forces and separatist rebels in Chechnya.

Russian authorities say foreign representatives of al Qaeda have been involved in attacks in the North Caucasus and elsewhere in Russia. Insurgents have claimed responsibility for strikes such as a suicide bombing that killed 37 people at Moscow's busiest airport in January.

In a statement issued hours after U.S. President Barack Obama announced bin Laden's killing on May 2, the Kremlin called it a "serious success" and said "revenge is inescapable for all terrorists." But neither Medvedev nor Prime Minister Vladimir Putin had spoken publicly about it until Wednesday.

Putin, president from 2000 to 2008, was one of the first foreign leaders to call then U.S. president George W. Bush after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people.

Russia backed the U.S.-led campaign against the Afghan Taliban, who harbored bin Laden.

With Medvedev and Obama working to improve ties strained by Russia's brief 2008 war in the former Soviet republic of Georgia, Moscow has provided the United States and NATO with increased access to supply lines for the war against insurgents in Afghanistan.

The Kremlin said the agenda for Zardari's talks with Medvedev on Thursday would involve coordinating efforts to support peace and stability in the region, including the fight against terrorism, the illegal drug trade and organized crime.

Pakistan has welcomed bin Laden's death as a step in the fight against militancy but also said the raid carried out by U.S. special forces in the town of Abbottabad violated its sovereignty.

Russia has called on the West not to interfere in what it says are the internal affairs of sovereign states, most recently during the wave of unrest in North Africa and the Middle East.

Putin likened the March U.N. Security Council resolution authorizing military intervention in Libya to a "medieval call for crusades" and has said the West has no right to kill Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the operation by the U.S. special forces to kill bin Laden did not contradict international law.

"Those who carried out this operation had a firm legal basis in terms of (a state's) right for self-defense, according to the United Nations Statute," state-owned RIA news agency quoted Lavrov as telling the Moskovskiye Novosti broadsheet, in an interview to be published on Thursday.