- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 27, 2005

A Falls Church man accused of conspiring to assassinate President Bush met several times with an al Qaeda leader in Saudi Arabia who once was the target of a global manhunt and a key suspect in an attack that killed nine Americans in Riyadh, law-enforcement authorities said.

Ahmed Omar Abul Ali, scheduled for a detention hearing tomorrow in federal court on charges of providing material support to al Qaeda, met with Zubayr al-Rimi in Saudi Arabia between September 2002 and June 2003.

The meeting with al-Rimi, described as the second-ranking al Qaeda leader in Saudi Arabia, took place at the time the Bush assassination scheme was being discussed, authorities said.

Al-Rimi, also known as Sultan Jubran Sultan al-Qahtani, was identified in a Sept. 5, 2003, FBI bulletin to law-enforcement officials as one of four suspected al Qaeda terrorists thought to be planning unspecified attacks against U.S. interests.

Less than three weeks after the bulletin was released, al-Rimi was killed in a Sept. 23, 2003, shootout with Saudi security forces during a raid on a hospital housing complex in Jizan, about 600 miles south of the Saudi capital of Riyadh.

Two other Islamist militants and a Saudi police officer also were killed in the raid.

Al-Rimi, 29, was named as a key suspect in a suicide bombing in Riyadh in May 2003 that killed 34 persons, including nine Americans.

The FBI said he was the top deputy of Ali Abd al-Ghamdi, the mastermind of the Riyadh bombings and the former top al Qaeda member in Saudi Arabia who surrendered to Saudi authorities in June 2003.

Mr. Abu Ali, 23, of Falls Church, was a student at the Islamic University of Medina in Saudi Arabia when, federal prosecutors said, he met with members of the al Qaeda terrorist network to discuss an assassination plot in which he would get close enough to Mr. Bush to kill him with a gun or suicide bomb.

A six-count federal grand jury indictment handed up Feb. 3 and unsealed last week said Mr. Abu Ali “did knowingly and unlawfully conspire to provide material support and resources … knowing and intending that they were to be used in preparation for, and for carrying out, the assassination of the president of the United States.”

The indictment says that one of the 11 suspected al Qaeda terrorists with whom Mr. Abu Ali met while in Saudi Arabia — identified as co-conspirator No. 2 — “was killed in a shoot-out with Saudi law enforcement authorities in or around September 2003.”

It was that co-conspirator, the indictment said, with whom Mr. Abu Ali discussed two options for assassinating Mr. Bush: “an operation in which Mr. Abu Ali would get close enough to the president to shoot him on the street, and an operation in which he would detonate a car bomb.”

Magistrate Liam O’Grady will preside over the detention hearing in U.S. District Court in Alexandria.

Mr. Abu Ali’s attorney, Edward MacMahon, has denied any wrongdoing by his client, saying he “intends to plead not guilty to all of these charges” and expects a “fair trial at which he will be vindicated.”

The indictment said Mr. Abu Ali, a U.S. citizen and 1999 valedictorian of the Islamic Saudi Academy in Alexandria, told the co-conspirators he wanted to become a planner of terrorist operations like Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the mastermind of the September 11, 2001, attacks, and Mohamed Atta, one of the hijackers in the attacks.

Mr. Abu Ali was arrested by Saudi authorities in June 2003, shortly after the Riyadh bombing, and identified as a member of a clandestine terrorist cell. He was returned to the United States Feb. 21.

In addition to identifying al-Rimi, the September 2003 FBI bulletin also warned authorities to be on the lookout for Adnan G. El Shukrijumah, 28, a Saudi national tied to al Qaeda; Abderraouf Jdey, 38, a Tunisian linked with Osama bin Laden’s military chief, Mohammed Atef; and Karim El Mejjati, 35, a suspected Moroccan terrorist.

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