Saudi names al Qaeda held by Iran
From CNN State Department Correspondent Andrea Koppel
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A Saudi official in Washington has told reporters Iran is holding several senior al Qaeda leaders in "safe houses."
Among those in custody, the official said Tuesday, is the terror network's military chief, one of Osama bin Laden's sons and a Jordanian-born terrorist who U.S. authorities have said was behind the murder of a U.S. diplomat in Jordan.
Iran has not responded to a request by Saudi Arabia to hand over any in the group who are Saudi citizens, the official said.
He also said "at least another 10 to 12 major al Qaeda fish," as well as others who could be supporters of the group, are in Iran.
This official -- who acts as a liaison between the Saudi government and U.S. agencies that deal with terrorism -- would not say whether he believed U.S. policy toward Iran was affecting efforts by the Saudis to reach a deal with Tehran.
In addition, he said Saudi Arabia does not believe the mastermind of the May bombings in Riyadh is in Iran.
In that attack, simultaneous suicide bombings targeted three compounds housing Westerners, killing 23 people, including nine Americans. The remains of 12 others were identified as bombers.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, listed the names of four al Qaeda leaders he said was in Iranian custody in safe houses:
• Saad bin Laden, one of Osama bin Laden's oldest sons who, U.S. authorities say, has become a major player in the terrorist network, rising through the ranks since the September 11 terrorist attacks. He was born in Saudi Arabia.
• Saif al-Adel, an Egyptian who is al Qaeda's military chief. He is wanted in connection with the 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies in east Africa that killed 224 people and wounded thousands more. He is on the FBI's "Most Wanted" terrorist list.
• Abu Musab al Zarqawi, a Jordanian believed to be behind the murder of U.S. diplomat Lawrence Foley last year in Amman. Authorities have been focusing on Zarqawi, an associate of Osama bin Laden's, as the possible mastermind of last week's car bombing at the Jordanian Embassy in Baghdad that killed 16. The Bush administration cited Zarqawi as having ties to Iraq in its justification for war.
• Suleiman Abu Ghaith, a Kuwaiti-born al Qaeda spokesman.
Iran has said it has al Qaeda leaders in its custody, but has never provided their identities.
The Saudi official went on to detail Saudi efforts to cooperate with the United States in the war on terrorism, pointing to the arrest Monday of 10 people who this official said were part of a "major cell" that was aimed at a British target.
He would not specify what that target was, but he said the Saudis briefed British authorities about the plot.
A U.S. official said seized materials in that raid contained information that showed "an interest in British aircraft."
And on Tuesday three Saudi police officers and a suspected terrorist were killed in a gun battle between security forces and Islamic militants in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, an Interior Ministry official told CNN.
Seven terrorist suspects with possible ties to al Qaeda were arrested while another 10 fled, the official said. (Full story)
The Saudi official also said the Saudis were involved behind the scenes in the U.S. arrests of several men in Virginia, who U.S. authorities allege are members of a terrorist network.
"It was really our work," he said, adding that the Saudis extradited "about four" suspects in that case, all Americans, to the United States about two weeks ago.
On allegations that the Saudi government was connected to the September 11 hijackers, the Saudi official said that Saudi authorities can say conclusively that Omar al-Bayoumi -- the man who helped settle two of the hijackers in San Diego -- was not working as a Saudi government agent.
He told reporters that al-Bayoumi was not involved in the September 11 plot, and did not knowingly assist those two hijackers in preparing for the plot.
According to this official, the only connection he had to the hijackers -- Nawaf Alhazhmi and Khalid Almihdhar -- was helping them rent an apartment in San Diego, putting down cash for which he was later reimbursed.
As CNN has previously reported, FBI agents interviewed al-Bayoumi in Saudi Arabia last week.
The role played by al-Bayoumi and another man named Osama Bassnan is one focus of a recent congressional report on the September 11 terrorist attacks.
Sources familiar with the report, part of which is classified, have told CNN that it raises questions about al-Bayoumi's and Bassnan's relationship with the Saudi government, but that some of the information is from a single, "not very corroborated" source.
The official Tuesday said the United States did not ask to meet with Bassnan.
--CNN Producer Kevin Bohn contributed to this report.