Iran has announced that it is still holding a large number of Al
Iranian officials have confirmed that senior Al Qaida agents are among
the detainees. They said at least 100 Al Qaida members remain in custody.
"Since the collapse of the Taliban regime we have arrested a large
number of them," Iranian Intelligence Minister Ali Yunesi said on Wednesday.
Last year, Iran was said to have detained 500 Al Qaida members who
fled from Afghanistan in late 2001 and early 2002, Middle East Newsline reported. Most of the Al Qaida
members were said to have been released.
"Many of them have been expelled and a large number of them are in our
custody Ñ a mixture of big and small members. I said big and small
Yunesi did not elaborate. He did not identify any of the Al Qaida
detainees and refused to provide a figure for those being held by Iran.
"Wherever we learn of some clues about people connected to Al Qaida, we
launch intelligence operations and arrest them," Yunesi told a news
conference. "We are ready to hand over those Al Qaida members with whose
countries we have friendly ties."
Interior Minister Abdolvahed Mussavi Lari was quoted by the official
Islamic Republic News Agency as saying that Teheran plans to soon extradite
Al Qaida members. Lari said some of the Al Qaida agents would be sent
to countries that have signed agreements with Iran. He said others would be
placed on trial.
Earlier, Western diplomatic sources said Iran has been holding such Al
Qaida leaders as the son of Osama Bin Laden, the No. 2 member of the
movement, Ayman Zawahiri, and operations chief Seif Al Adel.
The sources also said Abu Musab Zarqawi and training chief Abu Mohammed
Al Masri have been captured over the last few months.
Iran has acknowledged that it is holding Al Qaida spokesman Suleiman Abu
Gheith, a Kuwaiti native. But Kuwait has rejected Iran's extradition of Abu
Gheith to the sheikdom.
Iran and Saudi Arabia have also discussed the extradition of Al Qaida
insurgents to the kingdom. Earlier this month, the two countries signed an
accord that would allow for the extradition of suspects.
The United States has tried to obtain Iranian agreement for the
extradition of at least two Al Qaida insurgents, Al Adel and Al Masri,
both connected to the 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa. Egypt
is said to have relayed a request for the extradition of Zawahiri, head of
the Jihad insurgency group.
"I think it is significant that they have now acknowledged rather
publicly the presence and detention of Al Qaida members," U.S. Secretary of
State Colin Powell said in Washington. "We are not in receipt of those