Suspected Militant Surrenders in Saudi Arabia
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Jul 13, 12:45 PM (ET)

By Sami Aboudi RIYADH (Reuters) - A suspected Saudi al Qaeda militant, who had appeared in a videotape with Osama bin Laden, was flown back to the kingdom from Iran after he surrendered under a government amnesty, state television said on Tuesday.

It said Khaled al-Harbi, also known as Abu Suleiman al-Makki, had been on the Iranian-Afghan border and had contacted Saudi Arabia's embassy in Tehran in response to the amnesty.

Television showed a wheelchair-bound and bearded Harbi being carried off a plane on arrival in the kingdom with his family. It did not say when he surrendered or returned to Saudi Arabia.

A Saudi security source said Harbi was the man seen talking with Saudi-born al Qaeda leader bin Laden in a videotape in which the two praised the September 11, 2001 attacks on U.S. cities. He said Harbi had fought in Afghanistan and Bosnia.

"He is big in the sense that he is one of the Saudis that were close to bin Laden," the security source said, adding that Harbi had not been involved in a spate of militant attacks in Saudi Arabia claimed by al Qaeda.

Harbi was the third person to surrender since Saudi Arabia announced on June 23 a one-month government amnesty aimed primarily at militants who have attacked Westerners, government targets and energy sites in the world's biggest oil exporter.

For over a year, Saudi Arabia has been battling militants loyal to al Qaeda, which carried out the September 11 attacks.

"I came in obeyance of God and the (Saudi) ruler... There is no doubt that this is a gracious initiative by King Fahd and his crown prince," the bespectacled Harbi told state television.

"There is no doubt this is an opportunity which every wise man who has faith in his heart should take advantage of and return to this country," he added.

The Saudi Interior Ministry said in a statement that Harbi did not have any official documents when he arrived at the Saudi embassy in Tehran. The mission had issued the necessary papers for him and his family to fly them home "after coordination with Iranian authorities," the statement said.

The ministry said Harbi had been in the Iranian-Afghan border region and contacted the Saudi embassy in Iran "expressing his readiness to take advantage of the royal amnesty." It said Harbi would be taken directly to hospital.

The security source said that Harbi was not among Saudi al Qaeda militants believed to be in Iranian custody.

Iran is holding several al Qaeda suspects but has not revealed their identities or nationalities. Riyadh has asked Tehran to repatriate any al Qaeda militants it may be holding.

Iranian officials were not immediately available for comment.



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