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Saudi Arabia Arrests Al-Qaida Suspects

BY Admin  June 18, 2002 at 1:19 PM EST

In a statement carried by the official Saudi Press Agency, an Interior Ministry official said at least seven of the suspects are members of al-Qaida. The state went on to say the seven were plotting to use missiles and other explosives in attacks on “vital installations” in Saudi Arabia including an air base used by U.S. military forces.

According to the Saudi agency, the Sudanese man is directly connected to the al-Qaida network and fought with the group in Afghanistan. The man says he fired a surface-to-air missile at a U.S. military plane as it took off from the Prince Sultan Air Base.

U.S. officials reported last Thursday that Sudanese authorities had captured the suspected militant. A burned out launcher of a shoulder-fired SA-7 anti-aircraft missile was found near the air base in early May.

Sudanese officials said Sunday that it deported the man to Saudi Arabia at the request of the Saudi government. The Iraqi and five of the Saudis in custody allegedly helped the suspect flee after the missile attack, but may not be directly associated with al-Qaida.

Saudi officials have provided few details about the arrests except to say they were the result of months of surveillance and planning. It is not clear when or where many of the suspects were apprehended.

The Saudi-born leader of al-Qaida, Osama bin Laden, has said his first cause is to overthrow the kingdom and eliminate the presence of some 4,500 U.S. troops so close to the home of some of Islam’s holiest sites.

The Saudi news report said the ongoing investigations into the 13 suspects would be made public and that they would eventually be transferred to an Islamic court.