Bin Laden ally in Sept 11 tape gives himself
The Daily Telegraph (London) - July 14, 2004, Wednesday
By Robin Gedye Foreign Affairs Writer
A LEADING al-Qa'eda fighter and ideologue who appeared in a videotape linking Osama bin Laden to the September 11 attacks gave himself up to Saudi Arabian authorities yesterday.
The surrender of Khaled al-Harbi under a Saudi government amnesty is potentially one of the most significant detentions of a prominent al-Qa'eda figure.
Described both as a dissident cleric and a former fighter, Harbi, who is also known as Abu Suleiman al-Makki, is married to the daughter of Ayman Zawahiri, bin Laden's chief ideologue and effective deputy, who remains at large.
Harbi, who is in his forties, contacted the Saudi Arabian embassy in Teheran from a hideout on the Iran-Afghanistan border asking to be taken in under a Saudi government amnesty extended to terrorists three weeks ago.
Saudi authorities described him as being "stranded" in the border region from where he was taken to Teheran and subsequently flown to Riyadh yesterday accompanied by a woman and a child.
Harbi was taken to hospital after being carried off the plane in a wheelchair to which he has been confined after being paralysed by a piece of shrapnel which hit him in the back as he was fighting in Bosnia.
A veteran of the Afghan guerrilla war against the Soviet army, Harbi trained under bin Laden, fighting at his side in the 1980s and returning to the battlefield in Bosnia.
He was only the third person to surrender since Saudi Arabia announced a one-month government amnesty on June 23 under which terrorists who give themselves up would be spared the death penalty.
Harbi featured prominently in the so-called "smoking tape" released by the Pentagon on November 9, 2001, in which bin Laden was seen gloating over and admitting responsibility for the attacks. The video, filmed by supporters of al-Qa'eda during a meeting in Kandahar, Afghanistan, fell into Pentagon hands after the first US raids.
Harbi is seen talking to bin Laden about the Twin Towers attacks and describing to others in the room how he had been talking to the al-Qa'eda leader on September 11 when he briefly stepped into another room to watch the television news.
When Harbi heard the first reports of the attacks he rushed back to bin Laden to tell him what had happened, but discovered that he already knew.
Despite the surrender of such a high-profile bin Laden ally, Saudi officials expressed disappointment with the response to the amnesty.
Prince Nayef, the interior minister, said Saudi Arabia's rulers had expected "large numbers, or all" of the suspected hundreds of active Islamist militants in the kingdom to "return to their senses and give themselves up".
He also conceded for the first time that Saudi nationals had been among the foreign fighters flocking to Iraq to wage war on the coalition and new Iraqi security forces.
Several funerals have taken place in the kingdom for Saudis killed supporting the insurgency in Iraq.
SECTION: News; International: Pg. 13
Copyright 2004 Telegraph Group Limited
Posted for Fair Use only.
Amnesty taken up by aide to al-Qaeda leader
The Times (London) - July 14, 2004
by: Daniel McGrory
A DISABLED militant who is a close confidant of Osama bin Laden surrendered to the Saudi authorities yesterday under a royal amnesty offered to members of al-Qaeda and other groups.
Khaled bin Odeh bin Mohammed al-Harbi, a Saudi who was partially paralysed by wounds suffered during the Bosnia conflict, has been in hiding along the Iran and Afghan border and is the third wanted terrorist to hand himself in.
The influential cleric was seen in a video sitting alongside bin Laden shortly after the September 11 attacks. He is heard flattering the al-Qaeda leader for his "great job" in organising the attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon.
In the video, shown in December 2001, Mr al-Harbi claims that Muslim scholars "bless" the hijackers' actions.
A former professor of Islamic theology, the cleric, who is known by a number of aliases, comes from the same tribe as many of the September 11 hijackers. He fought alongside bin Laden in Afghanistan as well as in Bosnia.
Mr al-Harbi, who is in his 40s, has been barred from preaching in Saudi for his anti-Western sentiments and has previously been jailed in the kingdom.
His surrender was immediately seized on by officials in the Ministry of the Interior as evidence that the month-long amnesty was working.
The announcement that he had been flown back to Riyadh came shortly after Prince Nayef bin Abdul-Aziz, the Interior Minister, said that he expected more militants to give themselves up in the last week of the amnesty offer.
The promise is that terror suspects who surrender will not be executed. Prince Nayef said that there would be no extensions to the offer and that the authorities would then launch an unprecedented attack on al-Qaeda cells operating inside the kingdom.
Mr al-Harbi was shown on state television being carried off an aircraft at Riyadh airport and, accompanied by his wife and son, being put in a wheelchair. Officials said that he would be taken to hospital for treatment. He gave a brief press conference in the terminal, saying: "I have come obeying God, and obeying the (kingdom's) rulers." He described the amnesty as a "generous offer" and urged other militants to take advantage of it.
SECTION: Overseas news; 18
Copyright 2004 Times Newspapers Limited
Posted for Fair Use only.