- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 25, 2002

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates A 21-year-old Saudi man sought by the FBI on suspicion of associating with the September 11 hijackers has surrendered to Saudi authorities, his father said yesterday.
Saud Abdulaziz Saud al-Rasheed turned himself in to Saudi Arabia's Interior Ministry on Thursday to prove his innocence after learning of the FBI's worldwide alert for his arrest, his father told the Associated Press from Riyadh.
The Saudi Interior Ministry yesterday would not confirm or deny it was holding Mr. al-Rasheed. The FBI did not respond yesterday to requests for comment.
The FBI issued a bulletin Tuesday night seeking Mr. al-Rasheed's immediate arrest, saying he was suspected of being associated with the hijackers who flew planes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and who seized another plane that crashed in a Pennsylvania field.
The bulletin said a picture from Mr. al-Rasheed's Saudi passport, issued in May 2000, was found among material "previously recovered during the war on terrorism" and found to be related to the September 11 hijackers.
The father, Abdulaziz Saud al-Rasheed, said he urged his son to surrender because he was sure of the young man's innocence and feared for his safety after the FBI alert.
The elder Mr. al-Rasheed, who works for the Saudi Red Crescent in the capital, Riyadh, denied FBI accusations against his son, calling him a peaceful person who "has nothing to do with terror networks."
"He has never held a gun in his life," the father said.
He said his son was in Egypt when the alert was issued, returned to Saudi Arabia on Wednesday and surrendered to authorities the next day in his hometown, Riyadh.
The FBI bulletin said the suspect's whereabouts were unknown and warned he should be considered armed and dangerous. At least two Arab newspapers reported in recent days that the suspect was in Saudi Arabia.
Senior U.S. law-enforcement officials said Mr. Rasheed's picture was found among pictures of several hijackers in materials obtained overseas some time ago and recently reviewed at the FBI.
The elder Mr. al-Rasheed said the FBI obtained his son's photo from Pakistan.
"Saud told me that he entered Afghanistan through Pakistan and that he gave that particular photo to the Pakistani authorities in his visa application," he said.
The younger Mr. al-Rasheed, who runs a small sweet shop in Riyadh, was in Afghanistan last year to participate in humanitarian efforts and returned to Saudi Arabia several months before September 11, his father said.
"He confirmed to me he had no relations with any terror group there, specifically al Qaeda or the Taliban regime," he said, adding that he supported his son's Afghanistan trip because he believed it would make him "an independent man."
The United States has blamed the September 11 attacks on the al Qaeda terror network led by Saudi exile Osama bin Laden. U.S. and allied Afghan forces overthrew Afghanistan's Taliban government last year after they refused to hand over bin Laden and al Qaeda members.
Saudi Arabia a key U.S. ally in the Persian Gulf region and home to 15 of the 19 hijackers in the September 11 terror attacks has defended itself against accusations it is not doing enough to crack down on suspected militants within its borders.
President Bush will meet with the Saudi ambassador to the United States, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, at his Texas ranch Tuesday, hoping to improve relations strained by disagreements over Iraq and terrorism charges, the White House announced Friday.
Earlier this month, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal said the kingdom was holding 16 suspected al Qaeda members who were transferred from Iran because they were Saudi nationals.
It was not clear, however, if U.S. investigators would be allowed to interview the suspects or if they had sought permission to.
During the investigation into the 1996 bombing of the Khobar Towers complex in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, that killed 19 U.S. servicemen, American investigators were not allowed access to suspects in Saudi jails.

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