- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 19, 2002

JIDDA, Saudi Arabia Saudi Arabia announced its first al Qaeda-related arrests since September 11 yesterday, saying it was holding 11 Saudis, an Iraqi and a Sudanese man who told authorities that he had fired a surface-to-air missile at a U.S. military plane taking off from a Saudi air base.
The arrests were announced by the Saudi Press Agency, which linked the suspects to Osama bin Laden's network and said the men were planning to use explosives and missiles in other terrorist attacks in the kingdom.
The agency provided only sketchy details, and it was not clear when or where the suspects were arrested. But it was the first time since the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States carried out by 15 Saudis and four other Arabs that the Persian Gulf state has announced arrests linked to bin Laden, the Saudi whose first cause was the overthrow of this Muslim kingdom.
On Sunday, Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle said Saudi Arabia was not doing everything it could to fight terrorism and urged President Bush to take a tougher stance with the kingdom.
"I think we can get a lot more help from the Saudis in so many ways. We're not getting that kind of help, and I'm disappointed," the South Dakota Democrat told "Fox News Sunday."
The Saudi news agency said those suspected of plotting attacks were targeting a number of "vital" installations and were planning to use explosives and surface-to-air missiles.
Among those arrested was a Sudanese man who appears to have fled Saudi Arabia with the help of the Iraqi and five of the Saudis in custody. The agency said the Sudanese man was directly connected with al Qaeda and had fought with the group in Afghanistan.
In Washington, a U.S. official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, identified the Sudanese man as Abu Huzifa, who is suspected as an al Qaeda cell leader and who has acknowledged shooting a shoulder-fired SA-7 surface-to-air missile at an American plane taking off from Prince Sultan Air Base.
The Saudi news report said the man was arrested several months ago.
The Sudanese government said Sunday that it had transferred the man to Saudi Arabia after he admitted firing a missile at a plane at the air base. In May, Saudi security guards found a missile-launcher tube about two miles from a runway at the desert base, south of the Saudi capital of Riyadh.
The Saudi news report said the investigation was ongoing and that findings would be made public. "Then they will be transferred to the Islamic court, and Islamic law will be implemented," it said.
Agence France-Presse, quoting a Saudi dissident, said dozens, if not hundreds, of Saudis linked to al Qaeda are in detention in the kingdom.
In one of the cases, "between six and 15 people," all Saudis, were arrested four months ago on suspicion of smuggling shoulder-held missiles from Yemen, Saad Faqih, head of the London-based Movement for Islamic Reform, told the agency.
About 4,500 U.S. troops and a number of American warplanes are stationed at the Saudi air base. It is being used in the war on terrorism as a command-and-control facility, though Saudi Arabia apparently has barred the United States from basing bombers on its territory. The presence of American troops in Saudi Arabia, home to Islam's holiest sites, since the 1991 Gulf war is one of bin Laden's stated reasons for his holy war on America.
Morocco last week announced that, with the arrests of five Saudi nationals, it had dismantled a group linked to al Qaeda that was suspected of preparing suicide attacks on U.S. and allied warships in the Strait of Gibraltar.
Moroccan security officials said three Saudi nationals picked up in mid-May confessed to planning to use Zodiac inflatable boats packed with explosives against NATO warships. The wives of two of the Saudi men, who were thought to have been used as couriers between al Qaeda and its members in Morocco, were arrested last week.
Also, officials in Washington yesterday said an al Qaeda operative named Abu Zubair al-Haili has been in Moroccan custody since last week.
Al-Haili, a 300-pound Saudi nicknamed "the Bear," ran al Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan and helped al Qaeda operatives evacuate after September 11, the officials told the Associated Press on the condition of anonymity.
Al-Haili was a close associate of Abu Zubaydah, the senior al Qaeda operations chief whom U.S. authorities captured in Pakistan in March.

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