Gitmo alum behind al Qaeda Saudi plot

Judith Miller:

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The sweep is among the largest anti-terrorism actions in several years. Saudi officials say that the suspects are members of AQAP, the Yemen-based group that has claimed responsibility not only for terrorist attacks inside Saudi Arabia and Yemen, but also for the foiled plot to blow up an American airliner approaching Detroit last Christmas.

Al-Turki did not dispute press reports indicating that members of the two suicide cells had been exchanging coded e-mails about the planned strikes with a man in Yemen whom the accounts called “Abu Hajer.” One Saudi official said “Abu Hajer,” which in Arabic means “father of Hajer,” is believed to be a nom de guerre for Said Al Shihri, a Saudi leader of AQAP. He was released from the Guantanamo Bay detention center in December 2007 after being held there for six years, and he was taken to a Saudi rehabilitation center from which he disappeared. Al Shihri and another former Gitmo detainee, Ibrahim Suleiman al-Rubaysh, who also fled the rehabilitation center, are now described as senior AQAP leaders.

Al-Turki said the arrests highlight the continuing threat Al Qaeda poses to the kingdom and its crucial oil resources. He described the arrests not only as the result of patient, methodical police work, but also as a near miss.

“They were ready,” he said of the militants, “but waiting for an order which fortunately didn’t come.”

He said that the two bombing teams had put together plans for their attacks, had secured weapons for the strikes and had conducted surveillance of their targets. He said the two cells were composed of six members each – two key players and four militants who were to provide logical support and other backup. One of those under arrest, he said, is a relative of a senior AQAP leader whom he identified as “Al Ahdel.”

The ministry announced that Saudi police had also seized weapons, explosives and ammunition that the militants had hidden underground in basements or in the desert. One press report said that credit cards and cell phones were also found.

Al-Turki confirmed a report in Thursday's Christian Science Monitor that the investigation began last October after two Al Qaeda militants were killed while attempting to infiltrate the kingdom. Rayed Abdullahi Al-Harbi and Yousef Mohammed Al-Shihri, both wearing explosive vests, were gunned down last fall in a shootout with police officers who had tried to check their identities. A Saudi police officer also died in the incident, Al-Turki said. But the police noticed that the militants, both of whom had been on a “most wanted” list that the kingdom issued in February 2009, were carrying two extra explosive vests with them. This led police to conclude that the vests were being smuggled in for operatives already inside the kingdom. Al-Shihri, one of those killed, had also spent time at Guantanamo Bay, the Christian Science Monitor reported.

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There is more.

The story is more evidence that the release of detainees from Gitmo is a mistake which we and our allies will pay for. Recent reports show another Gitmo alum has moved up to the number two position for the Taliban in Afghanistan. Yet, Obama foolishly insist on turning more of them loose.

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