JEDDAH, 19 June — Saudi Arabia yesterday announced the arrest of seven Al-Qaeda members including six Saudis and a Sudanese national on suspicion of planning terrorist attacks against vital installations in the Kingdom. An Interior Ministry official said the arrests were made several months ago. “The security agencies have arrested elements linked to Al-Qaeda who were planning to carry out terrorist attacks against vital installations in the Kingdom using explosives and two SAM-7 missiles,” the official said.
The official said the Sudanese suspect had been involved in an abortive missile attack near Prince Sultan Air Base in Alkharj, 80 kilometers (50 miles) south of Riyadh. He described the Sudanese as one of the ringleaders. “The remnants of the missile were found at the launching site after their case was known and after investigations were conducted with them,” the official said, adding that the Sudanese national and a second suspect had tried to conceal another missile of the same type in the desert outside Riyadh.
The official said the security officers had also arrested five Saudis and an Iraqi national for hiding the Sudanese man, giving him refuge and paving the way for his escape from the Kingdom. “He (the Sudanese) is one of the masterminds of this terrorist operation because of his direct link with Al-Qaeda network and his participation in the fighting in Afghanistan in collusion with the organization,” he explained.
“The Sudanese suspect was extradited to the Kingdom by the Khartoum government after official contacts,” the official said, adding that the extradition came in line with a security agreement between the two countries.
The official source pointed out that the investigation about the arrested Saudis and expatriates was in progress. “The result will be announced soon after the completion of the probe.” He said the case of the suspects will be filed in the court against them on the basis of the Shariah law.
The official also pointed out that the suspected terrorist operatives smuggled the SAM-7 missiles into the Kingdom and had hidden them in different places. He said the security officers in the Kingdom were keeping a tight vigil on criminals with a view to protecting the country’s security and stability.
The Saudi announcement came after Sudan said Sunday that it had extradited the Sudanese suspect to the Kingdom. Sudan’s Interior Ministry said the Sudanese suspect was arrested and interrogated after it received an extradition request from Riyadh on May 18.
Sudanese Interior Minister Maj. Gen. Abdul Rahim Muhammad Hussein said the extradition was made in accordance with a judicial cooperation agreement signed in 1983 and a bilateral agreement on the extradition of suspects and criminals.
In the extradition request, it was said the suspect fired the missile at an aircraft near the Prince Sultan Air Base and had managed to flee to his home country.
“The Saudi request contained all information about the incident and the name of the suspect and his place in Sudan,” the minister said. The man “gave full confessions that were identical with those made by his accomplices who were arrested in Saudi Arabia,” he added.
“In view of the gravity of the actions attributed to the suspects, jeopardizing the security and stability in both countries, several meetings were held by officials of the two interior ministries and it was agreed that all persons involved in the incident be tried in Saudi Arabia where the incident took place,” the Sudanese ministry said.
Last month, the vice chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Peter Pace, said a spent casing from a Russian SAM-7 missile had been found near the Saudi air base, but did not confirm that it was used to target US aircraft. The Los Angeles Times on Thursday said the man was a suspected leader in Osama Bin Laden’s Al-Qaeda network. A US government official, speaking on condition of anonymity, described the man to the daily as “someone important.”
Meanwhile, three Saudis suspected of belonging to Al-Qaeda were charged in Casablanca yesterday with preparing to attack buses around Morocco and a square in Marrakech, an official said.
The three men, identified by the Moroccan Interior Ministry as Hilal Jaber Awwad Al-Assiri, Abdullah Mesfer Ali Al-Ghamdi and Thabeti, were arrested after officials dismantled an Al-Qaeda “sleeper cell” in mid-May.