( AP )- Saudi Arabia's top religious authority warned Saudis against giving money to "evil" organizations, a newspaper considered close to the government reported Saturday.
Just days before the warning by Sheikh Abdul- Aziz Abdullah al-Sheikh, grand mufti of Saudi Arabia, police intercepted a phone message purportedly from al- Qaida's No. 2 leader, Ayman al- Zawahri . In the audio recording, al- Zawahri exhorts followers to collect money for needy families in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
"It is bad to give funds to just anyone who asks, and to parties with shabby reputations or unknown backing," the mufti said in the statement published in the daily newspaper al- Okaz .
"It's even worse to give it to an organization that's known for its evil and for hurting Islam and its followers," he added in an apparent reference to al- Qaida .
The oil-rich kingdom, birthplace of al- Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, has been waging a crackdown on the group's militants since a 2003 wave of attacks on foreigners here.
Last April, one of the largest sweeps by Saudi authorities netted 172 militants, including pilots allegedly trained to carry out attacks on oil refineries using civilian planes.
Despite the crackdown, individual citizens are widely believed to support the terror network and allied organizations through private donations to Islamic charities.
The Interior Ministry found al- Zawahri's message on a cell phone memory card belonging to one of 28 accused militants whose arrest was announced March 3.
The ministry on Saturday ordered Saudis to report to authorities if they received similar audio messages. In a statement, the ministry gave the citizens a week, beginning Sunday, to step forward, report such messages and "clarify their stance."
Otherwise, it said, "procedures will be taken against any suspect" who fails to report the occurrence. No details were provided.
In October, the government-appointed mufti asked wealthy people to exercise vigilance on where they donate their money. He also warned young "religious zealots" against becoming tools in the hands of foreign groups "which play with their feelings in the name of holy war."