Al Qaida planned Israel attack with hijacked Saudi F-15

Special to World
Wednesday, September 10, 2003

HERZLIYA, Israel Al Qaida planned to hijack a Saudi F-15E fighter-jet and crash it into a major office tower in Israel, the Israeli Chief of Staff said yesterday.

Israeli officials said U.S. intelligence agencies relayed this information based on their interrogation of Al Qaida suspects during the past 18 months. They said Al Qaida was trying to recruit a Saudi air force pilot to fly his F-15E from the Tabuk air base and carry out a suicide attack in Israel about 200 kilometers away.

The Al Qaida plot has been cited by Israel in its arguments to the United States for the immediate removal of Saudi Arabia's F-15E fleet from the King Faisal Air Base in Tabuk. About 50 F-15Es were flown to Tabuk in March 2003 and Riyad has refused to return them to their bases in eastern and central Saudi Arabia.

On Tuesday, Israeli Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Moshe Ya'alon became the first Israeli public figure to cite the F-15Es at Tabuk. Ya'alon said Israel has raised the issue with the United States, which sold the F-15s in 1982 and 1995.

"The deployment of the Saudi F-15s at Tabuk is a new phenomenon," Ya'alon said. "We worry about it. We found from interrogators, not from Israel, that Al Qaida thinks to recruit a Saudi pilot to use either the F-15s or a civilian plane for a suicide strike like in the Twin Towers from Tabuk."

The reference was to Al Qaida's suicide attacks on New York and Washington on Sept. 11, 2001. Al Qaida hijackers crashed two airliners into the World Trade Center and the Defense Department in an attack that killed 3,000 people.

Ya'alon said Israel could not tolerate the continued presence in Tabuk. He would not elaborate.

"We worry about this and we demand that it [F-15 deployment] be changed," Ya'alon told an international conference in Herzliya sponsored by the International Policy Institute for Counter-Terrorism.

The United States has not acknowledged that the Saudi F-15E fleet has been transferred to Tabuk. Neither the State Department nor Pentagon spokesperson has discussed the issue.

In 1978, then-Defense Secretary Harold Brown pledged to Congress that Saudi Arabia will base the F-15 aircraft at Dhahran and Taif. Brown said Tabuk was not equipped to serve as an operating base for the F-15's.

Print this Article Print this Article Email this article Email this article Subscribe to this Feature Free Headline Alerts
Search Worldwide Web Search Search WorldTrib Archives

See current edition of

Return to World Front Cover

Back to School Sweepstakes