- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 6, 2005

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — Two senior al Qaeda operatives in Saudi Arabia made money transfers and used coded text messages to communicate with suspected terrorists in Britain in the months before the July attacks in London, according to security officials in the kingdom.

The Sunday Telegraph has learned that the two men, of Moroccan descent, have since been fatally shot in separate gunbattles.

Younis Mohammed Ibrahim al-Hayari, al Qaeda’s purported leader in Saudi Arabia, was killed in Riyadh three weeks ago, and Abdel Karim al-Mejati died in a shootout in the central Al-Qassim region in April.

Security officials in Saudi Arabia suspect both men of involvement in the attacks on London on July 7 and 21 and say they have established that al Qaeda is operating in Britain.

“It’s beyond doubt they’re active in your country,” said one security official in Riyadh. The deaths of al-Hayari and al-Mejati had severely disrupted al Qaeda’s base in Saudi Arabia, Saudi officials said.

This was confirmed by a Western diplomat in Riyadh, who said: “They are conducting a model counterterrorism campaign. They have really disrupted the al Qaeda network here. These extremists are on the run.”

Money transfers are understood to have been made from Saudi Arabia to Britain in the first six months of this year through businesses in the two countries.

Al-Hayari was believed to have been the most senior al Qaeda member in Saudi Arabia. Large quantities of chemicals and other bomb-making materials were found at his hide-out. Al-Mejati is said to have been the mastermind behind the March 2004 train bombings in Madrid.

In an exclusive interview, Prince Turki al-Faisal, the Saudi Arabian ambassador to London, said Friday that his country had warned Britain less than four months ago that terrorists were planning an attack on London.

Prince Turki, 60, the former head of the Saudi intelligence service and the designated ambassador to Washington, said that the information was passed on in Riyadh to MI6, the British intelligence service.

The information came from several terrorist suspects who had been arrested and interrogated. It is understood, however, that the intelligence was not specific enough.

Scotland Yard is now investigating who received the messages and money from Saudi Arabia. The suicide bombings of July 7 left 52 victims dead and more than 700 injured, while the second bombs planned for July 21 failed to detonate.

“We are trying to establish whether the money was directly linked to the individuals who carried out either the first or the second sets of bombings in London,” the Saudi security adviser said. “The messages and the money transfers were highly professional. They were using SIM cards for six hours and then throwing them away.”

Last week, the Sunday Telegraph reported that Hussain Osman, 27, the suspected failed Shepherd’s Bush bomber, had called a mobile phone in Saudi Arabia just hours before his arrest.

According to Saudi security officials, Osman was phoning his parents, of Ethiopian extraction, while travelling by Eurostar from London to Rome. His parents are believed to have been living in Saudi Arabia’s Jidda area, near the Red Sea, for several years.

The telephone call was monitored by a British intelligence agency and agents listened as Osman spoke first to his mother and then to his father. His parents are, however, not suspected of involvement in terrorism.

Meanwhile, Scotland Yard announced it will train up to 500 extra officers in how to use firearms because of the increased threat of terrorist attacks on Britain.

Sir Ian Blair, the Metropolitan Police commissioner, said that there was a need to boost the numbers of firearms specialists in London.

The force currently has 440 officers who are authorized to carry firearms in CO19, the Yard’s specialist firearms unit, as well as several hundred other officers who have received firearms training.

“It’s not so much about how many we can put on the street tomorrow, but it is the issue of sustaining the [anti-terrorism] campaign,” Mr. Blair said.

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