RIYADH – Security sources at the Ministry of Interior have revealed that the driver of the two Al-Qaeda members killed by security forces in Jizan Tuesday was not on the list of 85 wanted but had “very close ties to the deviant group”, and added that his two passengers were “on the point of blowing themselves up” when they were shot dead by officials.
An unnamed official told Okaz newspaper that the driver and sole survivor of the vehicle carrying wanted militants Yousef Al-Shehri and Raed Al-Harbi was a “Saudi and a main partner with very close connections to the two, and a member of the deviant group”.
The official said that the driver was not, however, on the Ministry of Interior list of 85 wanted persons made public in February this year.
Other security sources close to the case said that the driver disclosed “important security information that led to the arrest of six Yemenis working with Al-Shehri and Al-Harbi inside the Kingdom”, arrests which were made public on Monday. The ministry said Monday that more people were being sought in connection with the case.
The sources further revealed that during the shootout Al-Shehri and Al-Harbi each had one hand on their machine guns and another on their explosive vests and were “right on the point of blowing themselves up”, but that the “swift action taken by security officials thwarted an explosion”.
Condolences from Al-Shehri’s father
The father of Saeed Al-Shehri, the second man in the Yemen-based Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula who is believed to have been integral to the planning of attacks by the two dead militants, has, meanwhile, praised the work of security officials involved in Tuesday’s incident and offered his condolences for the death of the official who, he said, had given his life “in the service of his religion and in defense of the country and the safety of its citizens”.
Ali Jaber Al-Khutheim, speaking to Okaz newspaper by telephone from his home in Khamis Mushayt, also warned against answering the recent call for funding made by his son in a video message broadcast on the Internet.
Saeed Al-Shehri, who is in hiding in Yemen with other members of the organization, appeared in the video calling for financial help for “jihad” and the “mujahideen”, accompanied by a man identified at the time of broadcast by Al-Arabiya news network as Mohammed Abdul Hakeem Al-Ghazali, a Yemeni believed to have assisted in the movements of Abdullah Al-Asiri, the author of the August’s failed assassination attempt on Prince Muhammad Bin Naif.
Saeed Al-Shehri himself is believed by security sources to have recruited many Saudi Guantanamo returnees to Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. “I don’t believe a Muslim who fears Allah and guards his religion and country would respond to these misguided appeals as everyone knows the legitimate places to donate, and it is not to the inhabitants of tunnels and caves in Yemen,” Al-Shehri’s father told Okaz. “In the video I saw Saeed had turned into a beggar.” “My son lacks intelligence and solid knowledge of religion as he had no education beyond third grade. So how could people trust and give to an ignorant and sick person like him?” Al-Khutheim said.
“If Saeed does not return to the right path, may Allah take his life, so that the Muslims may be relieved of his evil and sick mind,” he said.
Saeed is Ali Jaber Al-Khutheims’ fourth son, and was brought back by the Kingdom from Guantanamo after being arrested in Afghanistan. At 15 years old, he was the youngest prisoner at the US detention center.
Following his return, Saeed lived a “happy and stable life in Al-Namas”, according to his father, but a month before the Ministry of Interior made public in February the names of 85 persons wanted in connection with acts of terrorism, he disappeared without warning.
Al-Shehri was joined in Yemen shortly after the publication of the list by his wife Wafa, or Umm Yousef, whose name was mentioned in plans organized with Prince Muhammad Bin Naif to bring back to the Kingdom Abdullah Asiri. Umm Yousef also took her three children, two by previous husbands, and one by Saeed, to Yemen.
According to his father, Saeed’s brother Yousef, who was 16 when he was detained in Afghanistan in November 2001 and taken to Guantanamo two months later, is leading a new life after his marriage in prison and is completing his secondary school education which was halted when he left for Afghanistan.
“Yousef is a bit of an introvert and prefers to only have contact with limited members of the family,” Ali said.
Saeed’s brother – full name Yousef Bin Ali Jaber Al-Shehri - is not to be confused with the militant killed on Tuesday in Jizan, who was named by the Kingdom’s authorities as Yousef Mohammed Mubarak Al-Jubeiri Al-Shehri. The other man killed was identified as Raed Abdullah Salem Al-Dhahiri Al-Harbi.
Ministry helps families
Ministry of Interior officials told Okaz on Monday that some 16 family members of Al-Shehri and Al-Harbi had been given help with travel expenses and to mourn and bury their relatives, in a “humanitarian and moral position required by the circumstances of the two families who are not guilty of the acts of the two wanted men”.
The official told Okaz that 13 relatives of Yousef Al-Shehri in Riyadh and Asir, and “three or four” from Al-Harbi’s family in Madina, had been assisted with travel to Jizan in order to conduct funeral rites. – Okaz/SG