- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 26, 2003


Authorities have arrested a man suspected to be an al Qaeda mastermind of the May 12 terrorist bombings in Riyadh, U.S. and Saudi officials said yesterday.

Ali Abd Rahman Faqasi Ghamdi surrendered to Saudi police, according to an official with the Saudi Interior Ministry, state-run Radio Riyadh said.

U.S. counterterrorism officials predicted the arrest would severely hamper al Qaeda’s operations in Saudi Arabia.

He was one of the top al Qaeda operatives in the kingdom, officials said. The Saudi, around 30 years old, fought with al Qaeda in the U.S. war in Afghanistan.

Also known as Abu Bakr Azdi, he was at Tora Bora, Afghanistan, where Osama bin Laden was thought to be hiding in late 2001, the officials said, speaking on the condition of anonymity. He left before the U.S. bombing began.

Officials say he has been linked to Saif Adil and Abu Mohamed Masri, two of the most senior al Qaeda operatives who remain at large. U.S. officials have said both are thought to be hiding in Iran.

Ghamdi was also an associate of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the suspected September 11 mastermind now in U.S. custody, the officials said.

In the May 12 attack, gunmen and suicide bombers attacked three housing compounds populated by foreigners. Nine attackers and 25 victims were killed.

On May 16, in Casablanca, Morocco, a dozen suicide bombers, using crude homemade explosives stuffed into backpacks, blew themselves up at five locations, killing 29 victims.

Officials said the two attacks were probably ordered by top al Qaeda operatives to demonstrate the group was still viable. More strikes were feared but have not materialized.

Ghamdi was also among the 19 suspected militants wanted since Saudi police discovered a weapons cache in Riyadh early last month.

“Justice will take its course within the framework of the laws,” Saudi radio quoted the Interior Ministry official as saying.



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