Dissident Muslim clerics in Saudi Arabia have threatened to excommunicate the king and other members of the royal family if they support the military strikes against Afghanistan.
The fatwas challenging the Saudi regime came as a bomb explosion in a busy shopping area raised security fears among foreign workers. Two people, including an American, died in the blast in the city of Khobar on Saturday. A Briton, an American and two Filipinos were injured.
A fatwa by Sheikh Hamoud bin Oqla al-Shuaibi, a leading cleric in Burayda, warns: "Whoever supports the infidel against Muslims is considered an infidel... it is a duty to wage jihad on anyone who attacks Afghanistan." The sheikh is considered one of the most learned scholars in the kingdom. He was jailed for two months in 1995, but it is unlikely the Saudi regime would risk trying to silence him now.
Suleiman Alwan and Ali Khodeir, two younger clerics associated with Mr Al-Shuaibi, have issued similar declarations. The fatwas declare that the punishment for supporting US aggression "by hand, by tongue, or by money" is expulsion from Islam.
The suggestion that some Saudi citizens might regard their rulers as lapsed Muslims - and therefore legitimate targets for attack - threatens to undermine the kingdom's stability.
"The royal family is in a state of anxiety and fear," said Saad al-Fagih, of the Movement for Islamic Reform, yesterday.
"They are aware of a few thousand people who have trained in Afghanistan in the last few years. There is information that these people have orders to hit them once the American strikes start."