*** Just the beginning. Fail to deal with the root causes and we will find ourselves too busy trying to treat symptoms only. There will be more emerging than you can track. Then what? MS ***
By Richard Spencer, Middle East Correspondent
Published: 5:48PM BST 25 Jun 2010
Heila al-Qusayyer, the middle class mother now described as al-Qaeda's 'First Lady' was running a cell of 60 alleged militants. She is believed to have been the Arabian peninsula's principal fund-raiser for al-Qaeda.
Qusayyer holds a degree in geography and was married to a former executive from Aramco, the all-powerful state oil company, who gave up all his worldly possessions to become a radical preacher.
Counter-terror officials have previously assumed that young men and boys are the principal agents of radical Islam.
Saudi security chiefs have since set up a specialist all-female unit at King Saud University, the country's oldest, to study the appeal of Islamist militancy to women and how best to tackle it.
"The story of this woman, who was involved in collecting money, with that money finding its way to al-Qaeda, has been like an alarm call to us," General Mansur al-Turki of the Saudi interior ministry told The Daily Telegraph.
There had been previous arrests of women terrorists, including some involved in bomb preparatio but such is the sensitivity towards the role of women, they were returned home.
The country's approach to suspects has become tougher across the board after Saeed al-Shehri, the deputy leader of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
Until then alleged terrorist were mainly put through a controversial rehabilitation programme with an emphasis on education and psychology.
Shehri, a former Guantanamo Bay inmate who returned to Saudi Arabia and then fled to Yemen, specifically demanded the release of Heila al-Qusayyer, who had been arrested in February.
Based on confessions she is said to have made in custody, the authorities say she used the cover of Islamic charities to obtain donations of cash and jewellery that she passed on to al-Qaeda.
One payment was of 650,000 Saudi riyals (GBP120,000).
Saudi newspapers have picked over leaked details of her arrest, such as that when discovered she was alone with a male suspect - a violation of strict sharia laws banning the mixing of sexes.
Wafa al-Shehri, Shehri's wife, was a key intermediary, returning to Saudi Arabia to recruit women and girls. But Qusayyer is also said to have been intending to join Saeed al-Shehri and become his second wife.
Even so, consideration is paid to her right to privacy as a woman. There is no known photograph of her, even wearing the niqab or face-veil that is used by all conservative women in the kingdom.
She was divorced by her first husband, Abdulkareem al-Humaid, the former oil executive, after he was jailed, so that she could continue her mission by marrying again.
Gen Turki said that women were possibly easier prey than men, because they were more affected by issues such as poverty and unemployment known to be a breeding ground for militancy.
He said it was also clear that women's restricted lives under local customs and laws did not mean they were unable to mix with male militants.
"We must reassure the community about the issue of al-Qaeda approaching women," he said.