JEDDAH – The mother of Abdullah Asiri, the suicide bomber who carried out last Thursday’s failed attack on the life of Prince Muhammad Bin Naif, Assistant Minister of Interior for Security Affairs, has condemned the actions of her son.
“It was a criminal act targeting a great man responsible for the security of the country,” Umm Muhammad told Okaz by telephone. “No Muslim can carry out such a despicable act whether my son Abdullah or anybody else.”
Her husband having also expressed his “utter condemnation of the criminal act” the previous day, Umm Muhammad said she was shocked and upset by last Thursday’s events, and struggled to comprehend how her son could have come to commit such an act.
“His childhood was no different from that of other children. He was a quiet child, obedient and close to the family, particularly his three sisters. May Allah punish whoever led my son into following this path which brings nothing but strife and torture in this world and the next,” the mother said.
Abdullah was recruited to the ranks of Al-Qaeda by his brother Ibrahim, alias “Abu Saleh”, whose name figures on the list of persons wanted in connection with terrorist acts. The brothers are believed to have entered Yemen together two years ago to join up with members of the terrorist organization.
Countdown to death
In a separate interview with Al-Watan newspaper published Tuesday, Umm Muhammad and two of her daughters gave more details of Abdullah and Ibrahim’s home life and upbringing, describing them in their teenage years when Abdullah was in intermediate school and his older brother in his final year of secondary school.
“They were not religious boys at the time. They used to listen to music and had a wide variety of friends, friends not like the ones they had later when they became more religious,” they said.
The elder sister believes the death of their brother Ali in a car accident in Hail nine years ago to have been a turning point in Abdullah and Ibrahim’s attitude. “It was after that that they started swapping video tapes and cassettes on the Mujahideen in Chechnya and Afghanistan, and they became at times distant. Abdullah started to go out a lot with his new friends to camps known as ‘preaching camps’.”
Umm Muhammad said that Abdullah worked as a caller to prayer at a mosque only a kilometer away from their house.
“He also joined the Teacher’s College on the Riyadh to Al-Kharj Road where he took Qur’an studies,” she said.
It was then that the family reportedly first began to notice the brothers’ preoccupation with the idea of jihad, believing them to have been swept along by it into the “deviant group”. The influence of friends and fatwas from some sheikhs calling for jihad against non-Muslims after the start of the war in Iraq, they said, also played a crucial role in them being recruited to the terrorist organization.
Seven years ago, two years after the brothers first became more religious, Ibrahim went missing for a week during the period of examinations at King Saud University where he was supposed to be studying chemistry. When Ibrahim did finally call them, he said he was revising for examinations with friends. When he called them again a few days later, it was to tell them that he was in prison.
Jihad in Iraq
Ibrahim had been arrested while heading to Iraq with a group of young men to engage in and call for jihad. He was held in prison for nine months, and his release marked a new turn for the family.
“That was the beginning of Abdullah’s recruitment to Al-Qaeda through his brother,” Umm Muhammad told Al-Watan.
According to her, Ibrahim’s return home from prison was a source of great joy, but he stayed for no more than four months in which time he recruited Abdullah, leading to their simultaneous disappearance during a family summer holiday in Khamis Mushayt.
That was three years ago, and the younger sister of the brothers said that it was another year until they had further contact, seemingly prompted by rumors being circulated that Abdullah had been killed.
The call to reassure the family that both of them were alive and well revealed no more details as to their whereabouts, other than the vague answer, “In the land of Allah”.
The family only received one more call from Abdullah and Ibrahim to say they “were well” before the announcement from the Ministry of Interior in February of this year that the brothers’ names were on the list of 85 persons wanted in connection with acts of terrorism, and that they were hiding out in Yemen.
By that time, the family had emptied their two sons rooms of their possessions in a bid to rid the house of their memory after all hopes of their return had been given up.
“We got rid of everything in their rooms, and gave it all away, even changing the carpets before our two younger sons moved in,” Umm Muhammad said.
According to the sisters, the room had previously been full of photographs and video cassettes “on jihad in Chechnya and Afghanistan”, and they didn’t want their father, who had been suffering from a variety of health complaints since his sons’ disappearance, to be affected by their memory.
Last week, without warning, they found out that Abdullah was being named as the suicide bomber who failed in his attempt to kill Prince Muhammad Bin Naif.
“We didn’t know anything until one of our neighbors came round to offer her condolences,” the sisters said. “Then we saw the news.”
The two sisters said they objected to the media accusing their brother of the attempted assassination without confirmation from the authorities, and the family is refusing to conduct funeral rites until the identity of the attacker has been confirmed as their son by DNA testing. Samples have already been taken from the Abdullah Asiri’s father, Hassan, and a brother, Muhammad.
An employee at the furnished apartments where Abdullah Asiri stayed before carrying out his attack, meanwhile, has spoken of his impressions of the terrorist in his final hours.
Thamer Al-Shareef told Al-Madina daily that Asiri checked into the block on Jeddah’s Sari Street at 7 A.M. Thursday, the day of the attack, accompanied by an unidentified individual.
“The two left the flat which they rented in Asiri’s name after about one hour and came back shortly before Maghreb. After some time they left again, and didn’t come back,” Al-Shareef said.
The next thing Al-Shareef knew was at two o’clock in the morning when the housing block was surrounded by security forces who started to carry out a search of the premises.
Al-Sharef said that Asiri and his companion showed no signs of preoccupation or any strange behavior. “The only thing I noticed was that the terrorist looked very tired as if he’d just arrived from a long journey,” Al-Shareef said, adding that Asiri was of medium height and thin built, with a “long beard descending from the center of his chin”.