Al-Qaida Claims Attack That Injured Saudi Prince

By: Maamoun Youssef AP Email
By: Maamoun Youssef AP Email

CAIRO (AP) - Al-Qaida claimed responsibility Sunday for a suicide attack that injured a Saudi prince and said the bomber - a wanted militant who had fled to Yemen - arrived on a royal jet after convincing the ruling family he wanted to surrender.

Despite the attack on Deputy Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, his father, Interior Minister Prince Nayef, said the kingdom would not change its offer for militants to repent. Saudi Arabia has been praised for having one of the world's best terrorist rehabilitation programs in the world.

Saudi officials have said the prince was lightly wounded in the bombing at his home in Jiddah Thursday night while he was receiving
well-wishers for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. If al-Qaida's claim proves to be true, it would be an embarrassment for the prince and his father, two of the kingdom's top anti-terrorism officials. Prince Nayef is a half brother of Saudi King Abdullah and one of the most powerful members of the royal family.

"You tyrants ... your bastions and fortifications will not prevent us from reaching you. We will come to you soon," al-Qaida warned in an Internet statement. The authenticity of the message could not be independently verified, but it was posted on militant Web sites often used by al-Qaida.

In one version of the events, Al-Arabiya, a Saudi-owned television network, said the attacker concealed the explosives in his anus, allowing him to evade detection. The network also quoted an expert as saying that the method of concealment aimed the blast away from the target, while blowing the bomber to bits.

Saudi officials could not immediately be reached for comment on the al-Qaida claim. They have refused to say exactly how the bomber arrived at Prince Mohammed's home, disclosing only that he was a wanted militant who convinced authorities he wanted to turn himself in.

Prince Nayef said Saturday the attack on his son "will not change the policy of keeping the door open for those who repent," the official Saudi Press Agency reported. At the same time, he warned that future attacks could be more sophisticated, and therefore more dangerous.

Prince Mohammed has already admitted he ordered guards not to search the attacker when he arrived at his home to surrender, even though the man was wanted by authorities. Saudi officials have said the prince wanted to treat the militant with respect and trust to encourage other wanted militants to come forward.

Al-Qaida identified the bomber as Abdullah Hassan Tali Assiri, a Saudi citizen. Yemen's foreign minister and al-Qaida both said he crossed the border from Yemen into Saudi Arabia.

Al-Qaida and a Saudi newspaper have said the attacker, who also goes by the alias Abu al-Kheir, was on Saudi's list of 85 wanted militants, most of them Saudi. Al-Arabiya said Assiri is 23 and has a 27-year-old brother Ibrahim who is also on the wanted list.

Yemen's foreign minister, Abu-Bakr al-Qirbi, told The Associated Press on Saturday that the attacker came from an area neighboring Saudi Arabia known to be an al-Qaida sanctuary.

Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula claimed the bomber managed to pass through security checkpoints at both the Saudi airports in Najran, a city on the border with Yemen, and Jiddah before he arrived at Prince Mohammed's home.

The group, which formed in January when al-Qaida operations in Yemen and Saudi Arabia merged, described the attack as "the first-ever intelligence and security penetration of its kind in the Arabian Peninsula." It was the first known attack by the newly merged group inside Saudi Arabia.

A crackdown on al-Qaida's Saudi branch forced it to move most of its operations to Yemen, where poverty, instability and widespread lawlessness have enabled it to take root. Saudi officials have expressed concern that al-Qaida could use Yemen as a sanctuary to
launch cross-border attacks.

The attack was the first attempt against a member of the royal family in decades and was also the first significant attack by militants in the kingdom since 2006. Saudi Arabia has waged a fierce crackdown on al-Qaida militants in the country. It has killed or captured most of their leaders after a string of attacks that started in 2003.

Before Thursday's bombing, al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula made several unsuccessful attempts to strike inside the kingdom.


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