Saudis identify head of Al Qaida network

Thursday, January 22, 2004

ABU DHABI Saudi Arabia has identified the leader of the Al Qaida network in the Arab kingdom as Abdul Aziz Al Muqrin.

Al Muqrin has been deemed the leading fugitive in the kingdom and tops the government's list of 26 most-wanted men. Many of the 26 fugitives were said to have recently joined the movement.

Saudi security sources said Al Muqrin heads an Al Qaida network that contains hundreds of operatives and support agents. The network was said to operate in most major Saudi cities, particularly Jedda, Mecca and Riyad, Middle East Newsline reported.

Al Muqrin was said to be about 35 years old and a veteran of the Afghan war against the Soviet Union in the early 1990s. He was trained in Al Qaida camps and then returned to the Saudi kingdom.

Before his arrival in Saudi Arabia, Al Muqrin was involved in training and recruitment in a range of Arab, African and European countries where Al Qaida operated. They included Algeria, Bosnia and Somalia.

The sources said Al Muqrin became the head of the Al Qaida network in 2002. In this role, he was said to have been responsible for financing, recruitment and operations in attacks that targeted Western interests in the kingdom.

Al Muqrin was also believed to have helped establish front groups to undermine the Saudi royal family. They were said to have included the Brigade of the Two Mosques, which has attacked Saudi and senior interests and officials.

The Al Qaida-aligned brigade has warned that it will kill anybody who cooperates with Saudi authorities in their search for Al Qaida insurgents.

In a related development, the United States has designated Al Qaida spokesman Suleiman Abu Ghaith as a supporter of terrorism and calls on the international community to freeze his assets and bar travel. The Treasury Department said Washington submitted the name of Abu Ghaith, who became Al Qaida spokesman after the suicide attacks on New York and Washington on Sept. 11, 2001, to the United Nations for inclusion on its list of terrorists and terrorist organizations.

"He repeatedly appeared in broadcasts on behalf of Al Qaida, claiming responsibility for that attack and others, including the November 2002 suicide attacks in Kenya that killed 13 people," the department said.

"Although he was born in Kuwait, the Kuwaiti government revoked his citizenship in 2001."

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