*** Take a read of the post regarding the increasing participation of women. The groups in question will adapt their tactics, while some in the West are preoccupied with the supposed rigidity of Islamic practices by extremists. Question everything - all assumptions must at least entertain the possibility of its opposite being true at some point. MS ***
CAIRO - A senior member of an al-Qaida offshoot in Yemen called on supporters in an audio recording posted Thursday to kidnap Christians and members of the Saudi royal family to avenge the arrest of a female preacher linked to the terror group.
In a 17-minute message, the deputy chief of al-Qaida in the Arabian peninsula, Said al-Shihri, said such hostages could be used as a bargaining chip to secure the release of the terror group's supporters currently held in jails across the region.
But in a rare nod to al-Qaida's female supporters, al-Shihri focused on one woman detainee, the Saudi Haila al-Kassir, appearing to indicate her arrest was a significant loss for the terror group.
Al-Shihri did not say when al-Kassir was captured. However, Saudi authorities in March announced the arrest of more than 100 suspected al-Qaida militants — including one woman — who were allegedly planning attacks on oil installations in the kingdom.
Anwar Eshki, the head of the Saudi Middle East Center for Strategic and Legal Studies, said the fact that al-Shihri mentioned al-Kassir indicates her arrest dealt a blow to the group.
"Other women were arrested before as supporters or preachers on an individual basis for the group and have gone through rehabilitation and were released," Eshki said. "This woman appears to have been involved in organized fund raising. This would be unusual."
Saudi officials were not immediately available for comment. But the Saudi daily Al-Riyadh and the Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya television quoted officials as saying al-Kassir, who is also known as Um al-Rabab, was arrested while carrying $650,000.
Women have assumed an increasingly active role in al-Qaida, which would appear to run contrary to the group's fundamentalist view that women should focus primarily on caring for the home and supporting fighters.
In recent years, most notably in Iraq, female suicide bombers have carried out attacks, something experts interpreted as a sign of increasing desperation by the militant group to evade security crackdowns.
In an article published in an al-Qaida online newsletter last month, al-Shihri's wife, a prominent preacher wanted by Saudi authorities and believed to be hiding with him in Yemen, also lamented al-Kassir's arrest and urged other Saudi women who support al-Qaida to escape to Yemen for protection.
A militant website that first reported al-Kassir's arrest described her as a 45-year old preacher who was last married to an al-Qaida leader killed in Saudi Arabia during a government crackdown on the group in 2004. The website said al-Kassir was wanted by Saudi authorities apparently because of her links to al-Shihri's wife.
Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula was formed a year ago, when Yemen and Saudi militant groups merged.