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Saudis: Al Qaeda member surrenders


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RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (CNN) -- One of Saudi Arabia's most wanted militants has turned himself in to the authorities, the first senior suspect to surrender under a one-month government amnesty announced last week.

Othman Al-Omari, number 19 on Saudi Arabia's most wanted list of 26, accepted King Fahd's offer of amnesty, which was made last week, according to Saudi sources Monday.

Al-Omari, who turned himself in on Sunday night, was a business partner of Shaban Al Shihri -- the first al Qaeda member to accept the offer when he turned himself in Friday.

Al-Omari and Al Shihri shared a vegetable stall in a market in Medina. Al Shihri, according to sources, was in part responsible for persuading Al Omari to turn himself in.

Sources said the most wanted list of 26 was not arranged in order of importance.

When the one-month amnesty was announced by Crown Prince Abdullah last week, sources in the kingdom said it was aimed at mid-ranking and junior al Qaeda supporters.

After that period militants would face forceful consequences, Abdullah said.

"We are announcing for the last time that we are opening the door to repentance and for those to return to righteousness," he said in a televised address last Wednesday.

The amnesty move came days after U.S. engineer Paul Johnson Jr., who was working in the kingdom, was kidnapped and beheaded -- and after months of battles between Saudi forces and al Qaeda terrorists.

"To everyone who has gone out of the righteous way and has committed a crime in the name of religion and to everyone who belongs to that group that has done itself a disservice, everyone who has been captured in terror acts is given the chance to come back to God if they want to save their lives, their souls," Abdullah said.

"If they give themselves up without force within one month maximum from the date of this speech, we can promise them that they are going to be safe."

Abdullah said all such people would be dealt with fairly, in accordance with Islamic law.

"If they are wise and they accept it, then they are saved. And if they snub it, then God is not going to forbid us from hitting them with our force, which we get from our dependence on God."

He added that Saudi forces would not hesitate to act.

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Amnesty was announced after U.S. engineer Paul Johnson Jr. was executed by militants.

Johnson Jr., who worked for Lockheed Martin Corp, was kidnapped on June 12. After a 72-hour deadline passed without the demanded release of all al Qaeda prisoners and the departure of all Westerners from the kingdom, photographs of Johnson's head and body were posted on an Islamist Web site.

Hours later, al Qaeda cell leader Abdel Aziz al-Muqrin and three other terrorists were killed in a gun battle with Saudi police, and 12 other suspected members of the cell were captured.

This month's terrorist attacks in Saudi Arabia are the latest in a string of al Qaeda gunbattles and bombings that has lasted for more than a year.

Al Qaeda attacks during the weekend of May 29 in the Saudi oil city of Khobar left at least 22 people dead -- 19 of them from other countries.

A car bombing last November believed to be the work of al Qaeda struck a mostly Arab neighborhood near Riyadh's diplomatic quarter, killing at least 17 people and wounding 122 others.

In May of 2003, triple al Qaeda car bombings in Riyadh killed 23 people, plus the 12 bombers, at three complexes housing Westerners.

CNN Senior International Correspondent Nic Robertson contributed to this report.


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