Iran has quietly detained and expelled to Saudi Arabia 16 al Qaeda combatants who sought refuge in the country after fleeing Afghanistan, the Saudi foreign minister, Prince Saud Faisal, told The Washington Post.
Iran handed over the al Qaeda fugitives, all Saudis, knowing that whatever intelligence was obtained from them during interrogation in the kingdom would be passed on to the United States for use in the war against terrorism, Saud added.
The top Saudi diplomat said that even though al Qaeda's chief, Osama bin Laden, and some of its supporters are Saudi, Riyadh shares the U.S. desire to prosecute bin Laden and his network, declaring, "All the information we have on al Qaeda has been exchanged with the U.S."
Saud disclosed a group of Saudi officials, headed by a senior intelligence official, traveled to Tehran in May to question 16 al Qaeda fighters who were detained there, along with four women and six children, after crossing from Afghanistan. They left Iran in June on a Saudi government jet. The detainees are in Saudi Arabia, but officials declined to say if they are still incarcerated.
"We asked [the Iranians] to hand them over and they did," the prince said. "Iran has not only cooperated with Saudi Arabia in this conflict in Afghanistan but cooperated extensively with the United States." "The U.S. and Iran can speak for themselves as to how much cooperation happened between the two countries," he said.
Saud noted that al Qaeda is a sworn enemy of the Saudi government that wants to crush the ruling monarchy and sever the country's relations with the United States. “It would be the ultimate of contradictions that we finance those who are trying to do harm to our country, but these [facts] seems to be left aside or disregarded," he said. (Albawaba.com)
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