Saudi prince: Al-Qaida sought mass-destruction weaponsgreenspun.com : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread
Saudi prince: Al-Qaida sought mass-destruction weapons
MANAMA, Bahrain (AP) -- Saudi intelligence heard reports, but never had evidence, that Osama bin Laden may have acquired weapons of mass destruction, the kingdom's former intelligence chief said in remarks published Thursday.
Prince Turki, head of the Saudi secret service from 1977 until last August, ruled out the possibility bin Laden's al-Qaida organization might have amassed such weapons, according to the English-language Arab News.
''We monitored all these claims -- not only those related to al-Qaida, but regarding other organizations as well,'' Prince Turki was quoted as saying. ''There were reports that several individuals and organizations had acquired or (were) about to acquire such weapons, but we have not received strong evidence to back that up.''
Bin Laden, who is bitterly critical of the Saudi royal family, was stripped of his Saudi citizenship and disowned by his family in the early 1990s. He is the main suspect in the Sept. 11 terror attacks on the United States.
Prince Turki's comments came in an unusual in-depth interview conducted last week with two Saudi-based media, the Arab News and MBC television. The newspaper has been publishing a series of articles this week based on the interview.
What sort of weapons the prince referred to wasn't clear. However, President Bush said this week that bin Laden is trying to acquire chemical, biological and nuclear weapons.
U.S. officials say they believe bin Laden's al-Qaida network has access to crude chemical weapons such as chlorine and phosgene poison gases, but not more complex weapons such as Sarin nerve gas. They say evidence exists al-Qaida sought nuclear material.
Witnesses in the New York trial of suspects in the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania testified bin Laden had sent people to Sudan to buy uranium. The trial transcript is unclear on whether the purchase was made.
Counter-terrorism officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, told The Associated Press in Amman, Jordan, on Thursday that they were reviewing reports that bin Laden agents tried to acquire non-conventional weapons from sources in former Soviet republics.
But the officials said they had no confirmation that bin Laden had managed to acquire weapons of mass destruction.
Jean Pascal Zanders of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute said it took Iraq, with the advantages of state support, 10 to 15 years to mass produce biological and chemical agents.
Saudi intelligence, Prince Turki said in the Arab News interview, also monitored bin Laden's efforts to build Islamic militias in Sudan in the mid-1990s.
The prince said Saudi intelligence monitored bin Laden ''recruiting persons from different parts of the Islamic world, from Algeria to Egypt, from East Asia to Somalia, to get them trained at these camps.''
Bin Laden left Sudan in 1996. He returned to Afghanistan, where he was welcomed because of his years there battling Soviet forces in the 1980s.
Prince Turki also was quoted as saying Saudi intelligence estimated bin Laden's wealth at between ''$40 million and $50 million at most.'' Other estimates have run into the hundreds of millions of dollars.
-- Martin Thompson (firstname.lastname@example.org), November 09, 2001
I've got a hunch that Saudi intelligence knows a lot more about al-Quida that they will tell us.
-- RogerT (rogerT@c-zone.net), November 09, 2001.