07-13-04 (AP - RIYADH, Saudi Arabia) A wanted al-Qaida militant said to have fought alongside Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan turned himself in to Saudi diplomats in Iran and was flown to the kingdom Tuesday, the most prominent figure to surrender under an amnesty, the Interior Ministry said. The militant was identified as Khaled bin Ouda bin Mohammed al-Harby, also known as Abu Suleiman al-Makky. In a videotape released after the Sept. 11 terror attacks, bin Laden was shown talking about the planning of the attacks with al-Harby, according to the Arab TV channel Al-Arabiya. Al-Harby was believed to have lost his legs fighting in Afghanistan. There was no immediate confirmation by Saudi officials. Separately, Interior Minister Prince Nayef acknowledged for the first time Tuesday that Saudis had infiltrated neighboring Iraq to fight U.S.-led forces. "Surely, there are Saudis," Prince Nayef told reporters late Monday of the foreign fighters detained in Iraq. "But the number, and how (they got in to Iraq) is not available to us now." Al-Harby, who fought with bin Laden against the Russians in Afghanistan about 20 years ago, was shown on state television being carried off a Saudi Airlines plane after arriving in Riyadh. He was pushed in wheelchair through their airport, and was wearing traditional white robes and Arab headdress. In a statement, the Interior Ministry said al-Harby contacted the Saudi Embassy in Tehran from the Iranian-Afghan border, where he was stranded. It was not disclosed what al-Harby was wanted for, and his name does not appear on the list of the kingdom's 26 most-wanted militants.
"Thank God, thank God ... I called the embassy and we were very well-received," al-Harby told Saudi TV in the airport terminal. "I have come obeying God, and obeying the (kingdom's) rulers." He is the third man to take advantage of the amnesty that King Fahd offered militants on June 23. The amnesty, lasts for one month, promises to spare the lives of those militants who surrender. The two militants who have already surrendered in response to the amnesty include Othman Hadi Al Maqboul al-Amri, No. 21 on the most-wanted list. Al-Harby described the amnesty as a "generous offer" and urged other militants to take advantage of it. He was accompanied by his wife dressed in black and a teenage boy, whom a Saudi security official identified as his wife and son. The ministry said al-Harby will be taken to hospital for health care. It did not elaborate on his condition. Separately Tuesday, Interior Minister Prince Nayef acknowledged for the first time Tuesday that Saudis had infiltrated neighboring Iraq to fight U.S.-led forces.
"Surely, there are Saudis," Nayef told reporters late Monday of the foreign fighters detained in Iraq. "But the number, and how (they got in to Iraq) is not available to us now." The prince's announcement came after repeated denials of Iraqi reports that that Saudis are fighting in the insurgency. Iraq's Human Rights Minister Bakhtiyar Amin said Monday there were 14 Saudis among 99 foreign fighters in detention. Also, Saudi newspapers have published obituaries and funeral reports for at least four Saudis said to have died fighting in Iraq. Nayef said hundreds of other militants have been detained and some have already been convicted in court. He did not provide exact numbers, but he said more trials were coming. Nayef warned there would be no extension to the amnesty that expires July 23, and declared that the kingdom's fight against terror is not over. Since May 2003, the country has suffered a series of suicide bombings, gunbattles and kidnappings that tended to target foreign workers. The attacks have been blamed on al-Qaida and its sympathizers. "There are still things we have to deal with, and we should not be surprised if anything happens," Nayef said. "We are totally prepared to face any emergency." In Washington, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the Bush administration has been pressing for better border control. "We've worked for a long time with all the neighbors of Iraq to try to get better control at the borders," he said. Iraq is expected to raise the subject of infiltration at a gathering of foreign ministers of neighboring states that will be held July 21 in Cairo, Egypt. Besides the Saudis, Iraq has said it has in custody 26 Syrians, 14 Iranians, 12 Egyptians, nine Sudanese, five Palestinians, five Yemenis, five Jordanians, five Tunisians, a Lebanese, a Moroccan, a Turk and an Afghan. On Tuesday, a prince published a poetic tribute to the amnesty, praising King Fahd for giving militants a chance to return the fold so the "enemies of Islam" would not triumph. "The amnesty of the Fahd of the Arabs is a medal for those who have repented," says the poem, which was published across a whole page of the pan-Arab newspaper Asharq al-Awsat. It was illustrated with pictures of the king, the Kaaba shrine in Mecca, Saudi soldiers, and the poet himself, Abdel Aziz bin Saud bin Mohammed Al Saud.