Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat – Former member of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, Jabir al-Fayfi, revealed new and important information about the failed assassination attempt against Assistant Minister of Interior for Security Affairs Prince Mohammed Bin Naif in August 2009.
Jabir al-Fayfi, a former Guantanamo Bay detainee who only joined the Al Qaeda organization after he was repatriated to Saudi Arabia in 2006, recently surrendered himself to Saudi authorities. He played, what has been described, as a key role in uncovering the 2010 Cargo Plane Bombs plot which saw explosive devices being discovered on Cargo planes bound from Yemen to the US.
In his latest televised interview, al-Fayfi talked about the attempted assassination of Assistant Minister of Interior for Security Affairs Prince Mohammed Bin Naif, who is the senior counter-terrorist figure in the kingdom. This suicide operation was carried out by Abdullah al-Asiri, an Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula member who was meeting with the prince under the pretext of renouncing Al Qaeda ideology and surrendering himself to the Saudi authorities. Al-Asiri blew himself up in the vicinity of the prince, however nobody else was killed in this attack and Prince Mohammed Bin Naif escaped with only light injuries.
Al-Fayfi disclosed that 4 main figures were responsible for this operation; Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula military commander Qassim al-Raimi, Said al-Shihri, whose name is included on the Saudi Interior Ministry’s list of 85 most wanted terrorists, Abdullah al-Asiri who actually carried out the suicide attack, and his brother Ibrahim al-Asiri, who manufactured the explosives used in the attack.
In a televised interview Jabir al-Fayfi revealed that despite the failure of the operation, Al Qaeda considers that simply gaining access to the official responsible for combating terrorism in Saudi Arabia “was in itself a success.”
Al-Fayfi revealed that this operation was planned in the Yemeni city of Marib, and that it was originally supposed to be carried out by a Yemeni Al Qaeda member who would gain access to Prince Mohammed Bin Naif under the pretext that he was coordinating the surrender of a group of Saudi nationals who are members of Al Qaeda.
However the terrorist group thought it would be better to give the task of assassinating Prince Mohammed Bin Naif to one of the Saudi nationals whose name was included on the Interior Ministry’s list of 85 most wanted. Al-Fayfi said that Said al-Shihri chose Abdullah al-Asiri for this operation for a number of reasons, not least al-Asiri’s relative youth.
Al-Fayfi also revealed that it was Abdullah al-Asiri’s own brother, Ibrahim [al-Asiri], who prepared the explosives that he used to detonate himself in the attempted assassination of Prince Mohammed Bin Naif.
Jabir al-Fayfi, who was residing in the Yemeni region of Abyan whilst Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula was preparing for this attack in Marib, said that approximately 800 grams of explosive were used in the failed suicide operation targeting Prince Mohammed Bin Naif. He also stressed that Abdullah al-Asiri received instructions from the Al Qaeda leadership to blow himself up as soon as he felt that he had been discovered, even if the prince was not in the vicinity, adding that he believed that al-Asiri was solely responsible for the timing of the detonation, and that this was not carried out by a third party.
Among the other important information revealed by al-Fayfi is that the Al Qaeda organization, and particularly Qassim al-Raimi, wanted to mix the explosives with toxic substances to maximize the damage caused by the explosion, but that they forgot to do so. Al-Fayfi claimed that this toxic or poisonous substance would have been able to kill anybody it came into contact with within 4 seconds.
Relaying the story behind this attack from the beginning, al-Fayfi told Saudi television that “as for the failed assassination of Prince Mohammed Bin Naif, I was residing in Abyan, an area that is far away from the region where they planned this operation, which was Marib.”
However he added that “of course they (Al Qaeda) informed me of details after the military commander of the group, Qassim al-Raimi, came to the region, and I began to ask him about this operations and how it happened.”
Al-Fayfi said that he was not aware of all the details of the operation, such as precisely what explosives were used and other details.
He said “of course, they informed me about some things, and this reveals the truth about others…such as who produced the explosives and the suicide belt for al-Asiri, and that was his brother, and his brother continues to be part of Al Qaeda, and is present in Yemen.”
He also clarified that Abdullah al-Asiri was not the one who was initially tasked with carrying out a suicide attack against Prince Mohammed Bin Naif was. Al-Fayfi revealed that a division occurred within the Al Qaeda organization following the emergence of Al Qaeda members who wanted to surrender themselves to the Saudi authorities. He said that this resulted in the Al Qaeda organization seeking a way to prevent those members from surrendering themselves to the Saudi authorities.
Al-Fayfi revealed that “initially, the Al Qaeda organization did not expect to reach Prince Mohammed Bin Naif; their original goal was to block the path of those wanting to leave the organization and surrender themselves. This would be done by carrying out an operation that would result in trust being lost in any Al Qaeda member who announced that they repent and want to surrender themselves.”
Al-Fayfi, who defected from Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, last year, said that this is something that is revealed by the instructions given to al-Asiri, who was told to blow himself up as soon as he felt that his plot had been uncovered, regardless of whether or not Prince Mohammed Bin Naif was in the vicinity of the explosion. This was because the primary objective of this operation was to prevent the Saudi authorities from trusting any Al Qaeda member who – like al-Asiri – claims to want to surrender himself.
Al-Fayfi recalls the days that preceded the planning of this attempted assassination, saying that the group’s military leader Qassim al-Raimi showed them an explosive belt filled with powerful explosive, and told them “pray for the one who will wear this explosive belt, and for the success of his operation.”
Al-Fayfi also explained how Al Qaeda arranged the plan to assassinate Prince Mohammed Bin Naif, saying that “originally a Yemeni figure was chosen [to carry out this operation]. He would identify himself as coordinating the surrender of a group of Saudi Arabians [belonging to Al Qaeda]. He traveled to Saudi Arabia to view the procedures of how somebody meeting Prince Mohammed Bin Naif would be searched, and met with him….on the basis of discovering the best way [to circumvent his security]. However the situation changed after this, and Said al-Shihri chose Abdullah al-Asiri to carry out the operation, exploiting his youth and his long stay in Yemen, saying that all of this made him psychologically ready to undertake a suicide operation.”
Al-Fayfi also revealed that prior to the operation; Al Qaeda tested 200 grams of this explosive material, and that the explosives passed this test and caused significant damage. He said that Al Qaeda used a significantly larger amount of explosives in their attempted assassination of Prince Mohammed Bin Naif in order to guarantee the success of the operation, but that the prince had been saved by the grace of God.
He also said that Al Qaeda’s primary goal was “to put a stop to the issue of Al Qaeda members surrendering themselves” and that the organization considers even reaching Prince Mohammed Bin Naif to be a success.
Al-Fayfi also addressed the conflicting accounts about the source of the explosion, and rumors that this was remotely detonated by telephone, stressing that Abdullah al-Asiri carried out this operation himself, and that whilst he did utilize a telephone during this operation, this was merely to keep in contact with the Al Qaeda leadership, and inform them of the progress of his operation.
He said “Abdullah al-Asiri was in contact wit them (Al Qaeda), and this was from when he left Marib, and he informed Al Qaeda [over the phone] all the details from when he passed through the borders, to reaching the hotel, to changing his clothes, and finally boarding the plane…and when he arrived he told them, I am sitting with Mohammed Bin Naif…and this was something revealed in the media.”
Al-Fayfi repeatedly confirmed that Abdullah al-Asiri was responsible for the timing of this detonation, and that the primary goal of this operation was to stop Al Qaeda members from surrendering to Saudi authorities. Al-Fayfi revealed that the surrender of Mohamed al-Awfi [Mohamed Atiq Awayad al-Harbi] to Saudi authorities in February 2009 had harmed and embarrassed the Al Qaeda organization, as well as caused a state of mistrust between the Al Qaeda leadership and its members in the field.