Iran tells Kuwait, Saudia Arabia it holds 350 Al Qaida members

Thursday, July 3, 2003

ABU DHABI Iran has acknowledged to Gulf Cooperation Council allies that it is holding more than 300 Al Qaida insurgents.

The insurgents include senior Al Qaida operatives. Iran has identified Al Qaida spokesman Suleiman Abu Gheith as one of the detainees.

Gulf diplomatic sources said Iran has relayed details of the detained Al Qaida nationals to GCC states, Middle East Newsline reported. The sources said Teheran has discussed extradition of many of the insurgents to Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, which have signed security cooperation accords with Teheran.

Iran, the sources said, has about 350 suspected members of Al Qaida, most of them detained in 2002. They said most of the detainees are Kuwaiti and Saudi nationals.

The sources said Iran has reported the capture of several senior members of Al Qaida. But the only senior member identified was Abu Gheith, a Kuwaiti native.

Teheran has offered Abu Gheith to Kuwait. But Kuwaiti Interior Minister Mohammed Al Khaled Al Sabah said Abu Gheith is not a Kuwaiti national. Al Sabah refused to confirm that Abu Gheith was being held in Iran.

"We have not asked for the surrender of Suleiman Abu Gheith because he is not Kuwaiti," the minister said on Wednesday. "We have advised our neighbors not to provide safe haven to Al Qaida members in order to spare the region future problems."

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