Top Al Qaida aide is captured in Turkey

Monday, June 23, 2003

LONDON A leading Al Qaida aide has been captured in Turkey.

The aide was identified as Abdullah Al Safian, a deputy to Abu Qatada, regarded as the spiritual leader of Al Qaida.

Al Safian, a Tunisian national, was said to have been captured by Turkish authorities in late 2002. He was extradited to Tunisia last week, Middle East Newsline reported.

Al Safian was described as a leading publicist for Al Qaida. He was said to have helped written articles for the spiritual leaders of several Islamic insurgency groups linked to Al Qaida.

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Abu Qatada is the nomme de guerre of Omar Othman Abu Omar. He has been imprisoned in Britain.

The decision by Turkey to extradite Al Safian marked the latest development in security cooperation between Middle East countries. That cooperation includes intelligence exchange and the extradition of suspects in a trend that began over the last 18 months.

Islamic sources in Britain told the London-based A-Sharq Al Awsat daily on Monday that Al Safian, entered Turkey from Iran. The sources said he was captured and tortured in a Turkish prison. The sources said Al Safian had refused to cooperate and identify himself to his Turkish interrogators.

Al Safian had lived in Britain for more than 20 years. In the late 1990s, he left his wife and four children for Afghanistan where he joined Al Qaida before its Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.

For his part, Abu Qatada, who is wanted in Jordan in connection with insurgency attacks, has been imprisoned in Britain under the nation's new anti-terrorist law. He has been described as Al Qaida's ambassador in Europe and was believed to have helped counsel some of the members of the cell that hijacked the passenger jets that crashed into the World Trade Center in 2001.

The sources said Al Safian is not wanted in Tunisia in connection with any Islamic insurgency attack. They said there is no conviction pending against Al Safian in Tunisia.

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