The United States has ordered the expulsion of dozens
of Saudi diplomats suspected of helping promulgate Al Qaida ideology, diplomatic sources said. The State Dept. has refused to either confirm or deny the action..
The State Department revoked the diplomatic credentials of the Saudi
diplomats in Washington over the last month in an effort to crack down on
Saudi efforts to promote Al Qaida interests in the United States.
The diplomatic sources said about 70 diplomats and embassy staffers were expelled in late
2003 and dozens of others were ordered to leave the United States by
mid-February. Many of those expelled were said to have worked in the office
of the Saudi defense attache.
In all, about 70 Saudi diplomats have left the United States since
January, the sources said. They did not include Saudi ambassador to
Washington, Prince Bandar Bin Sultan, the longest serving diplomat in the
The State Department has refused to confirm the expulsion of the Saudi
diplomats. "I can't confirm it at this point," State Department spokesman
Richard Boucher said on Wednesday. "I'll see if there's anything I can say
The Saudi diplomats, in a determination made by the FBI and Homeland
Security Department, were said to have abused their diplomatic privileges in
the United States. The sources said most of the diplomats were responsible
for operations of the Institute of Islamic and Arabic Sciences in America
[IIASA] located in Fairfax, Va.
IIASA, established in 1988, has provided free training for hundreds of
Muslims in the United States in Wahabi ideology, the basis for Al Qaida. The
institute is one of six overseas branches of the main religious university
in Saudi Arabia.
The Washington-based Saudi Information Agency, operated by the Saudi
opposition, identified the Saudi diplomats who work at the institute as Fuad
Gunaim, Ibrahim Al Kulaib, Abdallah Al Saif, Saleh Al Sunae, Fahd Al Amer,
Saab Al Saab, and Yousef Al Shubaily.
The U.S. decision to expel the diplomats was said to have stemmed from a
Houston, Texas conference in December
2003. The Saudi opposition agency said Saudi diplomats had planned to attend
the conference with what it termed "known supporters of Al Qaida leader
Osama Bin Laden. The Saudi embassy canceled its participation in the
conference after the Washington Post reported the involvement of the
The conference was to have been addressed by a senior Saudi cleric Sheik
Abdullah Bin Jebreen, who has publicly supported Bin Laden and his war
against the United States, the agency said. Jebreen addressed the conference
via video link from Riyad.
[On Thursday, a statement purportedly issued by Bin Laden said Al
Qaida's strategy was to launch a major attack on the United States. The
statement, which appeared on the Voice of Jihad website, said Al Qaida wants
to provoke the United States to retaliate against Saudi Arabia.]
The agency said Saudi ambassador Prince Bandar Bin Sultan has refused to
take responsibility for the Saudi embassy in Washington. The agency cited a
source as saying he hasn't entered the embassy in years.
"Many diplomats have not seen the ambassador for years," the source
said. "Bandar spends most of his time at his mansions around the U.S. and
the world, instead of carrying on his ambassadorial duties."