Saudi suspects seeking to revive al-Qaida

Documents profiling the 85 wanted men - 83 Saudis and two Yemenis - reveal that many of them either took part in planning attacks.

al qaida 88 (photo credit: )
al qaida 88
(photo credit: )
One of the men on the Saudi Arabia's new most-wanted list is married to Osama bin Laden's daughter while another was involved in a plot to kill the US ambassador in Yemen. A third smuggled militants into Iraq from Syria. Documents profiling the 85 wanted men - 83 Saudis and two Yemenis - reveal that many of them either took part in planning attacks targeting oil, security and other installations in the kingdom or provided al-Qaida members with weapons, safe haven, false documents and money. The documents illuminate the extent of Saudi participation in the shadowy extremist networks struggling to rebuild in the Arabian peninsula after a series of harsh crackdowns in past years. All the men on the list are hiding abroad, many in neighboring Yemen. Saudi officials say Yemen's lawless hinterland gives these militants a place to hide, while keeping them close to the kingdom and their source of recruits. Yemen, meanwhile, has announced plans for a major operation against an entrenched al-Qaida presence around the city of Marib, east of the capital. Tribal leaders have been called on to hand over any militants. The men on the list were all ages and came from throughout the kingdom, according to documents provided to The Associated Press on Saturday by a Saudi official who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the issue. The youngest, 16-year-old Abdul-Ilah al-Shihri, was only nine around the time of the Sept. 11 attacks. He was smuggled into Yemen to join al-Qaida there by his uncle, according to the documents. The official said the men are active members of al-Qaida or local offshoots and planned to re-establish the terror network in Saudi Arabia following the kingdom's aggressive campaign, which had netted hundreds of members and sympathizers. Al-Qaida has not carried out a major attack since February 2006, when suicide bombers tried but failed to attack an oil facility at the Abqaiq oil complex, the world's largest oil processing facility, in eastern Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia issued the list on Monday and sought Interpol's help in arresting the men. They include 11 who have been released from the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay and have attended the kingdom's touted extremist rehabilitation program. Among them were two Saudis who have emerged as the new leaders of Yemen's branch of al-Qaida. Documents were available for six of those men, all of whom left Saudi Arabia in 2000 before eventually making their way to Afghanistan where they were captured and then taken Guantanamo. After being released to the Saudis and going through rehabilitation, the men slipped across the border into Yemen. Another man on the list, Mohammed Aboul-Kheir, 34, is married to the daughter of al-Qaida leader bin Laden and worked as his bodyguard. He had links to Ramzi Binalshibh, one of five co-defendants facing murder and war crimes charges for alleged roles in the Sept. 11 attacks. The documents put his whereabouts in either Afghanistan, Pakistan or Iran. Another wanted Saudi, Saleh al-Qaraawi, has been dubbed by the local media as one of the most dangerous men on the list. The documents say that al-Qaraawi, 27, provided money and recruits for Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the head of al-Qaida in Iraq who was killed in June 2006. "He received intensive training in Iran in the use of electronics in explosions," said the documents. "He also attempted to establish a new terror cell in the kingdom," the documents added. They said al-Qaraawi left for the United Arab Emirates in 2007 on a forged passport. Qassem al-Reemi, 30, meanwhile, one of the few Yemenis on the list, has "links to a plot targeting the U.S. ambassador in San'a," the capital of Yemen. "He rented the house in which the plot for that operation was hatched," according to the documents. "He also monitored the U.S. Embassy." No such attack has taken place, but in September gunmen did assault the embassy gates, leaving 19 people dead, including six militants. Al-Qaida claimed responsibility. The Saudi campaign against al-Qaida began in earnest in 2003, when militants first struck inside the kingdom, which is bin Laden's birthplace and home to 15 of the 19 Sept. 11 hijackers. The network's attacks have targeted expatriate residential compounds, oil installations and government buildings.