Iran reportedly shipped out son
of Bin Laden early this week

Thursday, September 11, 2003

LONDON Iran has enabled the son of Al Qaida leader Osama Bin Laden to escape the country, according to a published report here.

Iranian intelligence sources said the regime of Ali Khamenei has allowed Saad Bin Laden to escape Iran early this week. The sources said Bin Laden was accompanied by five senior operatives, including one termed "Abu Musafa the engineer."

The sources said Iran has expelled most or all of the members of the Al Qaida leadership. They said Al Qaida's No. 2 Ayman Zawahiri and senior operative Abu Mussib Al Zaraqawi have already left the country.

On Wednesday, the London-based A-Sharq Al Awsat quoted Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps intelligence sources as saying that Khamenei approved a proposal to expel the Al Qaida leadership in a drive to improve Teheran's international image, Middle East Newsline reported.

Iran was believed holding up to 18 senior Al Qaida operatives in eastern and northern Iran, the sources said. They were said to have included operations chief Seif Al Adel, spokesman Suleiman Abu Gheith and a senior operative identified as Abu Bakr.

The sources said the proposal was championed by Iranian President Mohammed Khatami as part of an effort to conceal Teheran's links to the leadership of the Islamic insurgency movement. Khatami who warned that any Iranian link to the Al Qaida leadership would be catastrophic and the country has already been accused by much of the international community of violating the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

A reformist bloc led by Khatami's brother and deputy parliamentary speaker, Mohammed Rada Khatami, has presented a resolution that would ban any Iranian government involvement with organizations deemed as terrorists.

The bill cites Al Qaida and does not define terrorism.

The sources said the Iranian president was alarmed by Saudi denials that Teheran had cooperated with an extradition request for Al Qaida leaders. Khatami, the sources said, felt that the support of Riyad was crucial for its foreign policy.

But Khamenei and the IRGC have concluded that the 10 Al Qaida senior operatives still in Iran must not be extradited abroad to where the United States could obain access to them. This includes their extradition to Saudi Arabia, said to have increased cooperation with Washington in the war against Islamic insurgency groups.

For their part, Saudi sources have dismissed the prospect that Teheran would extradite Al Qaida leaders to the kingdom. They said Teheran fears that the Al Qaida detainees would disclose the Iranian connection to the Islamic movement, exacerbate the feud within the Iranian leadership and expose the country to a backlash by Al Qaida.

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