RIYADH – The father of ex-Gitmo detainee Sa’eed Al-Shihri who has seemingly surfaced in Yemen as a senior Al-Qaeda operative despite having had undergone a rehabilitation program in Saudi Arabia, says his son “is a deviant member of society who must be removed.”
The father, Jaber Aal Khath’am Al-Shihri, made the pronouncement in an interview with Saudi Gazette/Okaz during which he detailed how his son had seemed alright and was blending into society until four men started to visit him regularly.
A senior official of the Ministry of Interior, meanwhile, said a video posted on a jihadist website claiming the alleged reappearance of Al-Shihri and another Saudi, ex-Gitmo prisoner Abu Al-Hareth Muhammad Al-Oufi, as senior members of Al-Qaeda in Yemen, cannot diminish the Saudi government’s internationally acknowledged success in rehabilitating former terrorist suspects.
The source noted that only two out of 109 prisoners freed from the US detention facility at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba have allegedly returned to the terrorist fold.
Thirteen other Saudis still remain in the Guantanamo Bay facility, which President Barack Obama, soon after he took office last week, has ordered to be closed.
The Interior ministry source said Saudi Arabia would continue to seek the release of the 13 remaining Saudis in Gitmo despite the appearance of the Al-Qaeda video showing Al-Oufi (ex-Gitmo prisoner No. 333) and Al-Shiri (prisoner number 372) as field commander of Al-Qaeda and Deputy leader of Al-Qaeda in Yemen, respectively.
The video showed Al-Shihri and Al-Oufi sitting with the leader of Al-Qaeda in Yemen, Nasser Al-Wahaishi and the group’s commander, Qassim Al-Raimi, who had escaped from the Yemeni Intelligence Prison.
Al-Shiri was transferred from Guantanamo to Saudi Arabia in 2007. He was immediately put into the Ministry of Interior’s hugely successful rehabilitation program for arrested extremists. The program has drawn the praise of several international organizations and countries for its effectiveness. In fact, several countries have examined the Saudi program in preparation for implementing similar rehabilitation schemes.
Shihri was temporarily released from Al-Hayer Prison in Riyadh in Sept. 2008, pending trial with the rest of the Gitmo returnees.
“He came to us in Khamis Mushayt and fasted the holy month of Ramadan with us,” his father, Jaber, told Saudi Gazette/ Okaz.
Born in Riyadh and now nearly 34 years old, Shihri is the fourth among Jaber’s four sons. He had dropped out of primary school, started a business, married, and then married again and was blessed with a daughter, Jaber said.
“Sa’eed (Shihri) had traveled earlier to Afghanistan and Chechnya,” Jaber said. “During that time he never called us since he knew my stance regarding these matters.
In Afghanistan during the war on terror, he was injured by bomb shrapnel during an operation in which three of his companions died,” Jaber said.
“He was taken to hospital and from there sold to the American forces for $5000. In US captivity, he was transferred to Guantanamo Bay along with hundreds of detainees from Afghanistan and Pakistan.”
Shihri spent over six years in Guantanamo Bay. “The circumstances and conditions that the detainees face there are known to all,” his father said. “He used to tell us after his return from detention (in Guantanamo Bay) about the harsh inhumane conditions there and how he did not expect to ever return to his homeland. He said he used to think about death all the time.”
In 2008, when Shihri came home, Jaber tried his best to help his son return to society.
“He told me that he would look for a job as an Imam of a mosque,” Jaber said. “I constructed a new floor on my house in Al-Namas for him to stay with his wife, and he agreed.”
At the end of Ramadan, Shihri traveled to Riyadh with his wife and daughter and he left them there with his father-in-law, Jaber said.
“We were waiting for his return but he disappeared suddenly.”
Jaber said he informed the security authorities after more than two months of his son’s disappearance.
“I learnt that he had telephoned his wife and told her that he was in Yemen and that he was all right. Heasked for his car to be sold and the amount given to his wife.”
Shihri’s wife corroborated Jaber’s story.
She said she was four months pregnant in October when she, Shihri and their daughter traveled from Al-Namas to Riyadh on a Sunday.
“When I learnt that he had disappeared, I collapsed,” she said by phone from her father’s home in Al-Naseem district in eastern Riyadh.
She and her brother immediately went to the Counseling Committee, she said, and met Sheikh Al-Jilani and Dr. Al-Atteyan there, who told them that Shihri had not been detained by the security authorities and that they had no idea where he was.
The wife said that Shihri’s sister phoned her “after some time” and told her that he had called them from outside the Kingdom but had not revealed where he was calling from. In the call, Shihri said he was alright and asked his sister to convey his greetings to his wife and to get her a new mobile telephone so that he could call her.
“But he did not call,” his wife said.
She said that Shihri had been behaving normally before he fled. “He used to smile and laugh and was generally happy.”
She said what was provided the State to him after his return “was an honor – he even used to receive a salary of SR3,000 a month.”
Shihri’s wife is the sister of another ex-Gitmo detainee Yusuf Al-Shihri.
Jaber said he had a hunch something bad would happen to his son after four men started visiting Shihri at their family home in Khamis Mushayt at night.
“There were four of them. One came from Al-Jouf and another from Taif, who was dark-skinned. They used to visit him every week and would spend a long time with him. I did not feel comfortable about these visits, since two of them were among the returnees from Guantanamo.”
Jaber said he had warned his son but to no avail.
“But this satan and his companions neither kept their pledge nor appreciated the efforts and initiatives of the Government to secure their return after they had lost hope.
“They were ungrateful for the kindness they were accorded. The state was kind to him and had returned him from the darkness of prisons. The officials were kind to him, foremost of whom was Prince Muhammad Bin Naif Bin Abdul Aziz, Assistant Minister of Interior for Security Affairs, who granted us his care, attention and kindness by improving the condition of my son and rectifying his thinking, like with all the Gitmo returnees.
“Yet Sa’eed insisted on committing the error again, because he was brainwashed and was at the whim of satan.”
“He followed satan and did not care for me, his mother, two daughters and brothers.”
Filled with sorrow, the father declared: “I say it loud and clear that my son is a deviant member of society who must be removed. He was not upright like the rest of the Gitmo returnees who benefited from the lessons of the past and showed their gratefulness for the assistance they were provided.”
Message to son
Sending a message to his son, Jaber said: “I say to my son that your country had not spared any effort to return you from Guantanamo and look after you. One day after your return, the Government let us to see you in prison and it bore all the expenses of our journey to Riyadh, including one week’s stay. We thanked Allah a lot that you were returned to us after we had lost hope of ever seeing you alive.
“During your detention for over six years, the officials here were giving us hope of healing our wounds. During your detention in Al-Hayer, the state provided you with care and attention, even a SR3,000 monthly salary.”
Jaber went on: “Resort to reason, stop this deviation of yours, keep your pledges and don’t follow the whims of Satan and his helpers. You have a right toward your country, which necessitates that you return and surrender to those who trusted you.
“I say that I and my family denounce and reject the shameful act you have perpetrated that does not please Allah or His Prophet (peace be upon him).
“We will not accept that you or anyone else should disturb the security of this country and society. Look at the fate of the terrorists and deviant elements who had preceded you. They were enticed by satan and played havoc with the security of their country, shed blood and terrorized peaceful innocents.”
“If you are a real believer who knows the meaning of kindness, shouldn’t kindness be reciprocated with kindness?”
The father concluded: “How I wish he had died with that shrapnel (wound in Afghanistan) before he bit the hand that helped him and returned him from Guantanamo.” – Okaz SG