Saudi man wanted by FBI in terror probe surrenders

Sunday, August 25, 2002

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates -- A 21-year-old Saudi man sought by the FBI on suspicion of associating with the Sept. 11 hijackers has surrendered to Saudi authorities, his father said Saturday.

Saud Abdul-aziz Saud al-Rasheed turned himself in to Saudi Arabia's Interior Ministry on Thursday to prove his innocence after learning of the FBI's worldwide alert for his arrest, his father said from Riyadh.

The Saudi Interior Ministry on Saturday would not confirm or deny it was holding the younger al-Rasheed. The FBI did not respond Saturday to requests for comment.

The FBI issued a bulletin Tuesday night seeking the younger al-Rasheed's immediate arrest, saying he was suspected of being associated with the hijackers.

The bulletin said a picture from al-Rasheed's Saudi passport, issued in May 2000, was found among material "previously recovered during the war on terrorism" and found to be related to the Sept. 11 hijackers.

The father, Abdulaziz Saud al-Rasheed, said he urged his son to surrender because he was sure of the young man's innocence and feared for his safety after the FBI alert.

The elder al-Rasheed, who works for the Saudi Red Crescent in the capital Riyadh, denied FBI accusations against his son, calling him a peaceful person who "has nothing to do with terror networks."

"He has never held a gun in his life," the father said.

He said his son was in Egypt when the alert was issued, returned to Saudi Arabia Wednesday and surrendered to authorities the next day in his hometown, Riyadh.

The FBI bulletin said the suspect's whereabouts were unknown and warned he should be considered armed and dangerous. At least two Arab newspapers reported in recent days that the suspect was in Saudi Arabia.

Senior U.S. law enforcement officials said the younger al-Rasheed's picture was found among pictures of several hijackers in materials obtained overseas some time ago and recently reviewed at the FBI.

The elder al-Rasheed said the FBI obtained his son's photo from Pakistan.

"Saud told me that he entered Afghanistan through Pakistan and that he gave that particular photo to the Pakistani authorities in his visa application," he said.

The younger al-Rasheed, who runs a small sweet shop in Riyadh, was in Afghanistan last year to participate in humanitarian efforts and returned to Saudi Arabia several months before Sept. 11, his father said.

"He confirmed to me he had no relations with any terror group there, specifically al-Qaida or the Taliban regime," he said, adding that he supported his son's Afghanistan trip because he believed it would make him "an independent man."

The United States has blamed the Sept. 11 attacks on the al-Qaida terror network led by Saudi exile Osama bin Laden. U.S. and allied Afghan forces overthrew Afghanistan's Taliban government last year after they refused to hand over bin Laden and al-Qaida members.

Saudi Arabia -- a key U.S. ally in the Persian Gulf region and home to 15 of the 19 hijackers in the Sept. 11 terror attacks -- has defended itself against accusations it is not doing enough to crack down on suspected militants within its borders.

Earlier this month, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal said the kingdom was holding 16 suspected al-Qaida members who were transferred from Iran because they were Saudi nationals.

It was not clear, however, if U.S. investigators would be allowed to interview the suspects or if they had sought permission to.

During the investigation into the 1996 bombing of the Khobar Towers complex in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, that killed 19 U.S. servicemen, American investigators were not allowed access to suspects in Saudi jails.

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