Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat- Sheikh Abdullah al-Suwailem, who is part of the Saudi Arabian Munasaha program that aims to rehabilitate Al Qaeda members held in prison, told Asharq Al-Awsat about a 90 minute meeting he had with Haylah al Qassir, the Al Qaeda woman who was arrested in Riyadh. An informed source told Asharq Al-Awsat that Haylah al Qassir is a dangerous woman with a strong personality, and was one of the most active and effective Al Qaeda operatives in Saudi Arabia. She is known to have recruited women and youth to Al Qaeda, as well as been responsible for financing.
Sheikh Abdullah al-Suwailem revealed that in the days leading up to her arrest, Haylah al Qassir was in hiding as she was aware that she was wanted by security authorities, and that she spent this period in hiding in the homes of known families and abandoned houses, before she was eventually arrested.
Sheikh al-Suwailem describes his impressions of Haylah al Qassir from his meeting with her as part of the Munasaha rehabilitation program. He said “it is apparent that Haylah al Qassir had a love of showing off, and this can be seen clearly in her first marriage which was to a infamous man, and this is Sheikh Abdul Karim al-Hamid, who was known for his opposition to reality, and his ban on electricity and riding in cars.”
Information indicates that Haylah al Qassir is the ex-wife of Saudi extremist Sheikh Abdul Karim al-Hamid, who is under house arrest in the Taif governorate, due to his extremist religious views and his association with members of Al Qaeda. Other information reveals that she is the widow of Al Qaeda operative Mohamed al-Wakeel, who was killed in a shootout with security forces on 29 December 2004, following a failed car bombing attack on the Saudi Interior Ministry.
Al-Suwailem told Asharq Al-Awsat “I sat with sister Haylah 40 days ago for around an hour and a half, with the intention of getting to know her as well as rehabilitating her [ideology]. I found that she is a woman like other woman in this country, she has a strong faith and belief, and she has a love of promoting virtue and prohibiting vice, and she has the power of persuading others to God.”
However al-Suwailem pointed out that the problem that Haylah al Qassir has found herself in, with regards to the Saudi authorities accusing her of helping finance Al Qaeda in Yemen, is that she has Islamized her crimes, and she believes that all security officers are her “enemy” due to her husband dying at the hands of Saudi security apparatus in Riyadh in 2004.
Asharq Al-Awsat is also in possession of information that indicates that Haylah al Qassir was a highly effective and integrated member of Al Qaeda, and that she hosted a celebration in her home in honor of Abdullah al-Asiri, the Al Qaeda operative who carried out a failed suicide attack on Saudi Deputy Interior Minister Prince Mohammed Bin Nayef in 2009. This failed assassination attempt shocked the country, however Haylah al Qassir held a party in honor of al-Asiri, calling him a martyr.
Sheikh al-Suwailem also said that Haylah al Qassir attempted to portray everything that she had done for Al Qaeda as being part of jihad and defending religion, and that she spoke of Asma Bin Abu Bakr, and the Prophet’s daughter Aisha. Al-Suwailem belives that Haylah al Qassir was supporting Al Qaeda “in revenge” for the death of her husband at the hands of the Saudi Arabian forces.
Reliable information obtained by Asharq Al-Awsat also indicates that the suicide belts found in the possession of Yusuf al-Shehri and Raed al-Harbi when they were killed in Jizan in 2009 were destined for Haylah al Qassir in al-Qassim. She had reportedly recruited two suicide bombers for an attack, and they were waiting for the suicide belts in order to carry out the operation. Al-Suwailem told Asharq Al-Awsat that Haylah al Qassir harbored two youths in an abandoned house without electricity for 20 days or more before she was arrested. Sheikh al-Suwailem said that he admonished her for this, and told her “if you had stayed in your own home, and fasted on Mondays and Thursdays [according to the Sunnah of the Prophet], and studied to memorize the Quran, and prayed for mercy for your husband…it would have been better than this.”
Haylah al Qassir also revealed that her husband al-Wakeel had left two pistols in her custody, and asked her to promise him that she would only give these weapons “somebody who is worthy [ie another Al Qaeda supporter].”
Al-Suwailem said that condemning Haylah al Qassir without first understanding her is what had caused her to fall prey to Al Qaeda’s ideology, and provide them with financing in the first place.
Al-Suwailem also told Asharq Al-Awsat that Haylah al Qassir is in a safe place, she is in good health, and that she is being looked after by a team of female specialists. He also revealed that the prison authorities had responded to her request that her 5 year old daughter Rabab should remain in her custody, although Rabab was later put in the custody of Haylah al Qassir’s sister. Al-Suwailem also said that the statement by Al Qaeda in Yemen deputy leader Saeed al-Shehri calling for Haylah al Qassir’s release is “evidence of weakness not strength” and proof that Al Qaeda is in a complete state of collapse.