Iran Extradites Qaeda Members to Saudi Arabia
August 23, 2003
LONDON -- Iran has extradited a number of Saudi members of al Qaeda to Saudi Arabia, the official Iranian news agency IRNA, monitored in London by the BBC, reported on Saturday.
IRNA quoted Tehran's ambassador to Riyadh as saying the al Qaeda members had been arrested in Iran after the U.S.-led war on Afghanistan, but did not name them, or say how many had been extradited or when they had been handed over to Saudi Arabia.
The envoy, speaking to IRNA on the sidelines of a conference in Tehran, said Iran and Saudi Arabia, leading oil producers and both Muslim nations, had signed a security pact and "have shown a firm resolve to improve ties in all areas," the BBC said.
Last Sunday IRNA quoted Hassan Rohani, secretary-general of the Supreme National Security Council, as saying that Iran had foiled a number of attacks al Qaeda had been planning to carry out on its soil.
"Their (al Qaeda's) plans for a wide range of terrorist acts inside Iran were neutralized by our intelligence organizations," IRNA quoted Rohani as saying, though he gave no details.
Although a staunch political enemy of Washington, Iran condemned the September 11 attacks on the United States which were blamed on al Qaeda and was fiercely opposed to the rule of al Qaeda's former sponsors, the Taliban, in neighboring Afghanistan.
Tehran has said previously that it has arrested a number of al Qaeda members, including some senior figures in Osama bin Laden's organization. But it has declined to name them and has refused to hand them over to U.S. officials for questioning.
The Islamic Republic has also acknowledged that its extensive eastern border with Afghanistan is hard to police and some fleeing al Qaeda members may have been able to slip into the country undetected.
Intelligence sources and media reports suggest Iran may be holding Saad bin Laden, a son of the al Qaeda leader, al Qaeda's security chief Egyptian Saif al Adel and its Kuwaiti-born spokesman Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, among others.
Washington has in the past accused Iran of sheltering al Qaeda and said members of bin Laden's network in Iran may have planned the May 12 bombings in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, which killed 35 people.
Fifteen of the 19 men who carried out the September 11 suicide hijackings in the United States were Saudi citizens, and Riyadh, under pressure from Washington, has launched a crackdown that has involved bloody clashes between security forces and militants.
Iran says that in the past year it has arrested and deported around 500 al Qaeda suspects who fled across its borders from Afghanistan and Pakistan. http://www.reuters.com/newsArticle.jhtml?type=worldNews&storyID=3326459