ABHA, 9 May 2007 — Abu Nasir Al-Qahtani, most famous for being one of Al-Qaeda suspects who escaped from the US-run Bagram Airbase in Afghanistan, was at one point just a normal child, who grew up in the southern region of the Kingdom.
Abu Nasir’s story is a sad one. He was a decent, young man who suddenly turned into a troublemaker. He was born and raised in Wadi Jash, and lived the life of a simple, bedouin man. He later joined the military, which was a turning point in his life. He was later imprisoned for six years and was even given 3,000 lashes. While in prison, Al-Qahtani became an ascetic, and rigid in both the interpretation and practice of the Islamic faith. His father, Jafaar Qahtani, tried to change his views and encouraged him to go back to his job. All attempts to change his son’s mind failed, and Abu Nasir then joined the private sector and accompanied his father.
In 2001, while in Jeddah, Abu Nasir’s father gave him a car, and money to go to Riyadh to be with his mother and sisters. Twenty days after the 9/11 attacks, Al-Qahtani sold his car and went to Afghanistan with the money.
While in Afghanistan, he joined the anti-American militias. Soon, the American military arrested him and he was imprisoned at Bagram. He spent two years there. While in prison, he was able to send letters to his family through the International Red Cross. Though his family received his letters, it was evident that the content of the letters had been tampered with. In his letters, Al-Qahtani asked his parents to forgive him. However, Al-Qahtani was able to escape from prison along with three other prisoners.
His family denied that they knew anything about his escape, and said that they knew about his escape through TV. Four months later, Al-Qahtani contacted his family, and told them that he was looking for a way to surrender himself to the Saudi authorities and return to the Kingdom. Following these events, Al-Qahtani’s father received a call telling him that the American authorities had arrested his son. The most recent news came about a month ago, when his father received a call from the Red Cross telling him that his son was in good health.
However, last Sunday was a turning point in the life of the Al-Qahtani family. It was both shocking and surprising news to learn that their son was back in the Kingdom. Jafaar asked for help from the Saudi authorities to ensure that the judgment is according to Islamic law, since his son has been convicted.
Jafaar was able to meet his son at Muhail prison in Riyadh. It was an emotional reunion for the two. Al-Qahtani’s father expressed his gratitude to all those who helped his son and made it possible for him to return to the Kingdom. The list of those who made it possible stretches all the way from local authorities, to the Saudi Embassy in Islamabad.
The father also said that people who encouraged his son’s behavior were misguided individuals. “We will all stand against those who want to harm this country, its leader, its people, or its property,” said Jafaar.
Abu Nasir’s mother was extremely happy. With eyes full of tears, and a smile on her face, she described her son as being “back to life again.”
Al-Qahtani’s son, Nasir, was happy to finally see his father. The last time he saw his son, now seven, was when Nasir was only three months old.
Jafaar was told last Monday that his son was back in the Kingdom. “I remained in a state of shock for more than 15 minutes. I then promised to tell his mother. She fainted,” said Jaafar, adding that he then arranged to meet his son.
“When I entered, he fell on the floor crying and kissing my feet, because he did not expect that I was coming. I felt surprised, and happy. There he was, in front of me,” Jafaar said. He then added, “We then talked for more than two hours, and he talked to me about the punishment and torture he received in the American prisons, especially the psychological torture,” said Jafaar.
Jaafar also said that his son told him that while in Pakistan, the authorities asked him to change his clothes. Al-Qahtani thought that he would be transferred to the US. However, he said that he felt extremely happy when he saw the Saudi plane landing in Pakistan to take him back to his country.
Jaafar also added that he, along with 23 of their relatives, met their son. “His mother and siblings cried for more than half an hour. We got the chance to stay with him for three hours. His son refused to leave and only agreed after we promised to come back,” said the father.