47 frontline al-Qa'ida commanders identified by Saudi Arabia
Published 12/01/2011 | 11:25
A group of 47 frontline al-Qa'ida commanders, including a son-in-law of Osama bin Laden, have been identified in an Interpol alert on behalf of Saudi Arabia, in an unprecedented disclosure of Saudi citizens in key terrorist roles.
The cross-border police agency said that all of the men named were based outside the oil rich kingdom but posed a potentially serious public threat at home and abroad because of their suspected involvement with the Islamic group.
Muhammad Salim Barikan, who had worked as a driver and a bodyguard in al-Qa'ida camps, married Bin Laden's 27-year-old daughter Fatima in 1996.
Unconfirmed reports by militants in the group said last year that Barikan had been killed in a US drone attack in the terrorist stronghold of Waziristan in Pakistan.
Major Gen Mansour al-Turki, a spokesman for Saudi Arabia's Interior Ministry, warned that the men were key figures in supplying arms and financing to terrorist outfits in Yemen, Afghanistan and Pakistan, the pre-eminent battlegrounds in the war against the group. But despite exile their domestic links were extensive.
"One of their main goals is to establish terrorist cells inside the kingdom, to recruit Saudis and have them trained," he said. "We had to take this to Interpol to make sure that wherever they are, they can be captured."
Major Gen Turki said that many of the men named had links with 149 people detained in an eight-month operation against al-Qa'ida cells operating inside Saudi Arabia.
Yemen represented the single largest contributor to the list, being the base of 16 of the 47 Saudis named. Another 27 were split between Pakistan and Afghanistan with officials unable to determine exact whereabouts and four were believed to be operating in Iraq.
The list was issued just as Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State, arrived in Yemen on rare visit by a prominent Western politican to the terrorist stricken state. Mrs Clinton said she would boost US support for President Ali Abdullah Saleh's efforts to quash al-Qa'ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).
"Yemen recognises the threat AQAP poses to it and it has become increasingly committed to a broad-based counter-terrorism strategy," she said. "At the same time, we are committed to a balanced approach towards Yemen which includes social, economic, and political assistance,"
Key Saudis not listed on the notice included Osama bin Laden and his sons Mohammad, Said, and Hamza. Other prominent leaders including Saeed al Saudi, Said al Shihri, and Muhammad Abu Faid were also omitted.