Ahmed al-Shayea's return to arms along with other jihadis raises questions over Saudi Arabia's de-radicalisation initiative
Ahmed al-Shayea during an interview in 2007 organised by the Saudi government in which he publicly renounced jihad. Photograph: Donna Abu Nasr/Associated Press
Ahmed al-Shayea was known as the "living suicide bomb" – the young Saudi driver of a fuel tanker bomb in Iraq who survived to renounce violence and warn his countrymen of the dangers of jihad.
In the process he became Saudi Arabia's poster boy for a high-profile jihadi de-programming initiative whose secondary purpose is to discourage Saudis from joining al-Qaida.
With his burned face and mangled hands, Shayea was presented as a vivid warning to young Saudis about the perils of jihad and the untrustworthiness of al-Qaida, which he claimed had tricked him into driving the tanker bomb, which killed 12 people in 2004.
That was until November. Then Shayea disappeared from Saudi Arabia, only to reappear reportedly in Syria where – his Twitter feed reveals – he has rejoined the ranks of an al-Qaida franchise, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), which is engaged in a civil war with other rebels fighting the Assad regime.
The case of Shayea raises questions about the effectiveness of the jihadi de-programming efforts, including the well-known Saudi model, which has boasted of rehabilitating and releasing several thousand former jihadis, including some returned by the US.
And Shayea is not the only prominent jihadi to have returned to al-Qaida. Despite long denials of any recidivism, four years ago it was revealed that Said Ali al-Shihri, a former inmate of Guantánamo who was also released to the Saudis under the same programme, had re-emerged as al-Qaida's deputy leader in Yemen, one of a number of graduates of the de-radicalisation programme to return to the group.
Khalid al-Suwid, who also fought in Iraq and was released under the same programme in 2012, is another who quickly resumed jihad. His death in Syria was announced in a martyrdom video on Facebook.
Hundreds of young Saudis have undergone the jihadi de-programming, being re-educated in prisons and rehabilitation centres, a scheme run by the interior ministry and available only to captured jihadis who demonstrate a desire to revoke their beliefs.
More of article at link: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jan/18/suicide-bomb-al-qaida-saudi-ahmed-al-shayea?CMP=twt_gu