Report: Iran has arrested
Bin Laden's son, top aide

Sunday, June 29, 2003

ABU DHABI Iran has arrested at least three leading members of Al Qaida including both the son and top aide of Osama Bin Laden, according to an Arab satellite news channel..

Western diplomatic sources said Iranian security agents have arrested the No. 2 figure in Al Qaida, Ayman Zawahiri. Zawahiri is head of a splinter faction of the Egyptian insurgency group Jihad and the leading aide of Al Qaida founder Osama Bin Laden.

The sources told the Dubai-based Al Arabiya satellite channel that Iran also arrested other leading members of Al Qaida, Middle East Newsline reported. They included Suleiman Abu Ghaith, spokesman for Al Qaida, as well as Saad Bin Laden, the son of the movement's founder Osama Bin Laden.

The three Al Qaida leaders were part of a group of 40 members arrested by Iran over the last few weeks, the sources said. The group is said to have included Egyptians, Iraqis, Jordanians, Kuwaitis, Kurds and Saudis.

The sources said Iran has ruled out the extradition of the Al Qaida members to the United States. But Teheran was said to have raised the prospect that they would be sent to such countries as Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, both of which have signed security cooperation accords with Teheran.

On Sunday, the Kuwaiti daily Al Rai Al Aam reported that Kuwait has refused custody of Abu Ghaith, a Kuwaiti national. Instead, Kuwait was said to have urged Iran to cooperate with the United States on the extradition of the Al Qaida members.

Iran said it arrested an unspecified number of Al Qaida members. Over the weekend, Iranian officials said Teheran has been in contact with several countries to discuss extradition, but denied the arrest of Zawahiri.

The diplomatic sources said Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United States have discussed the extradition of Al Qaida members from Iran. They said Egypt has relayed a request for what the sources said is a handful of Egyptian nationals held by Iran.

Zawahiri is an Egyptian national. Another Al Qaida member said to have been arrested by Iran is Seif Al Adel, identified as the operations chief of the insurgency network.

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