RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (CNN) — Saudi Arabia promised Wednesday that terrorists in the kingdom will be safe if they surrender within a month — but after that they will face forceful consequences.
“We are announcing for the last time that we are opening the door to repentance and for those to return to righteousness,” said Crown Prince Abdullah in a televised address.
The move comes days after U.S. engineer Paul Johnson Jr., who was working in the kingdom, was kidnapped and beheaded — and after months of battles between Saudi forces and al Qaeda terrorists.
“To everyone who has gone out of the righteous way and has committed a crime in the name of religion and to everyone who belongs to that group that has done itself a disservice, everyone who has been captured in terror acts is given the chance to come back to God if they want to save their lives, their souls,” Abdullah said.
“If they give themselves up without force within one month maximum from the date of this speech, we can promise them that they are going to be safe.”
Abdullah said all such people would be dealt with fairly, in accordance with Islamic law.
“If they are wise and they accept it, then they are saved. And if they snub it, then God is not going to forbid us from hitting them with our force, which we get from our dependence on God.”
He added that Saudi forces would not hesitate to act.
Johnson Jr., who worked for Lockheed Martin Corp, was kidnapped on June 12. After a 72-hour deadline passed without the demanded release of all al Qaeda prisoners and the departure of all Westerners from the kingdom, photographs of Johnson’s head and body were posted on an Islamist Web site.
Hours later, al Qaeda cell leader Abdel Aziz al-Muqrin and three other terrorists were killed in a gun battle with Saudi police, and 12 other suspected members of the cell were captured.
This month’s terrorist attacks in Saudi Arabia are the latest in a string of al Qaeda gunbattles and bombings that has lasted for more than a year.
Al Qaeda attacks during the weekend of May 29 in the Saudi oil city of Khobar left at least 22 people dead — 19 of them from other countries.
A car bombing last November believed to be the work of al Qaeda struck a mostly Arab neighborhood near Riyadh’s diplomatic quarter, killing at least 17 people and wounding 122 others.
In May of 2003, triple al Qaeda car bombings in Riyadh killed 23 people, plus the 12 bombers, at three complexes housing Westerners.