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Jeddah Suicide Bomber Spoke To Prince on Phone Prior To Attack | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat- The Saudi Interior Ministry yesterday revealed new details surrounding the failed assassination attempt on the life of Saudi Assistant Minster of Interior for Security Affairs, Prince Mohammed Bin Naif. The Al Qaeda organization has claimed responsibility for the failed attack that took place on Thursday night when a militant who was supposed to be surrendering himself to the Prince blew himself up. The Saudi Interior Ministry has confirmed that the suicide bomber was Abdullah Bin Hassan Bin Taleh Assiri, who is included on the Interior Ministry’s list of 85 wanted suspects for terrorism related charges. The Interior Ministry also revealed excerpts of a telephone conversation that took place between Prince Mohammed Bin Naif and Abdullah Bin Assiri, in which the suicide bomber spoke of his desire to surrender himself to the Saudi authorities.

Assiri also claimed to be carrying a message from a number of other suspects who were seeking guarantees of safety before returning to Saudi Arabia. Assiri also claimed to be able to guarantee the safe return of the wife and children of Said al-Shihri. Al-Shihri was a former Guantanamo Bay detainee who was repatriated to Saudi Arabia and is the current deputy leader of Al Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula. Assiri used this as a prelude to allow him to personally meet with Prince Mohammed Bin Naif and carry out his suicide attack.

During the telephone conversation, Prince Mohammed Bin Naif spoke frankly with Assiri, telling him that the safety of al-Shihri’s wife and children were more important to him than the terrorists. The Assistant Minister of the Interior for Security Affairs also failed to make any promises or guarantees to Assiri and his group with regards to a number of aspects, particularly with regards to the State’s ability to compel those who suffered at the hands of Al Qaeda operations to waiver their special rights for punishment or blood money.

In this failed assassination attempt, the Al Qaeda organization attempted to exploit the existing coordination between the Saudi and Yemeni authorities to recover al-Shihri’s wife and children.

Interior Ministry spokesman, Major General Mansour al-Turki, informed Asharq Al-Awsat that Prince Mohammed Bin Naif had ordered a private jet sent to pick up Assiri from the southern border region, and transfer him to Jeddah. Assiri met with Prince Mohammed Bin Naif at the Prince’s palace in Jeddah. The suicide bomber was supposed to contact members of his group from the palace in order to give them the all-clear that it was safe for them to surrender themselves to the Saudi authorities.

However this was merely part of the plan. Major General al-Turki revealed to Asharq Al-Awsat that Assiri contacted those who claimed they wanted to repent from the palace, and that he blew himself up during this phone call.

Assiri’s death was greeted with shock and sadness in the Jeddah neighborhood that he grew up in, and Asharq Al-Awsat learned that his father, Hassan Assiri, suffered health complications upon hearing the official confirmation that his son was the perpetrator of this attack.

The following is an extract of the telephone conversation held between Prince Mohammed Bin Naif and Abdullah Assiri.

Prince Mohammed: As-Salam Alaikum, brother Abdullah

Assiri: Yes, yes.

Prince Mohammed: How are you?

Assiri: Praise be to God. I am well. How are you?

Prince Mohammed: I’m well. May every year find you in good health [traditional Arabic salutation].

Assiri: And you in good health also [traditional response], God willing.

Prince Mohammed: How are things with you?

Assiri: Good, happy Ramadan.

Prince Mohammed: God bless you, I trust you are well.

Assiri: Praise be to God.

Prince Mohammed: How is your brother Ibrahim? I hope he is well.

Assiri: He is fine, praise be to God.

Prince Mohammed: I bring you good news that your mother and father are well, and everything is good.

Assiri: Thank you…May God ensure that all things are well.

Prince Mohammed: Amen!

Assiri: May God ease things.

Prince Mohammed: All things are affordable so long as man keeps God in mind.

Assiri: God willing.

Prince Mohammed: Do you have anything that you would like to tell me?

Assiri: I would like to meet with you, God willing.

Prince Mohammed: I, your brother, am in Jeddah, and you are far away.

Assiri: I want to meet you in person to tell you everything that I know.

Prince Mohammed: The most important thing now is for you to answer a question, and you must answer in order to reassure me.

Assiri: Gladly.

Prince Mohammed: How is Said [al-Shihri’s] wife and children? I hope nothing has happened to them.

Assiri: No, no, they are well, praise be to God.

Prince Mohammed: They – and I am your brother – have family, so you must protect them above all else. Take care of them, because frankly, they are more important to me than you.

Assiri: May God bless you.

Prince Mohammed: Promise me that you will make sure that they are fine before everything else.

Assiri: We appreciate your frankness with us. Even my comrades are surprised at how you are treating us.

Prince Mohammed: Why? You are our children. Why are you surprised by this treatment?

Assiri: May God bless you.

Prince Mohammed: This is our duty. You must be careful of the evil people who try to exploit you and lead you astray. Follow God and return to your homeland.

Assiri: It is Ramadan, and God willing, this will be a good Ramadan.

Prince Mohammed: Amen, God willing, Amen.

Assiri: God willing, we ask God that he prevent evil, and that this be a good Ramadan.

Prince Mohammed: Amen

Assiri: We are optimistic that this Ramadan will be a good Ramadan.

Prince Mohammed: God willing. The first step will be to reunite you with your family so that they can see you. Secondly, and God knows that I am not lying to you, I want this woman and her children to return safely, because women are a priority for us above all else.

Assiri: By God, I believe you.

Prince Mohammed: I tell you, by God, if I had to choose between all of you and them, I would tell you all to stay there and them to come.

Assiri: True. By God, if only you could see his little girl and [his son] Yousef…I pray to God that thing go well.

Prince Mohammed: God willing, they will be reunited with their families, and the woman [al-Shihri’s wife] can return to her father and family. The most important thing for you to do now is to convince your brothers to return before they are exploited by the evil people.

Assiri: God willing, we hope things will go smoothly.

Prince Mohammed: I assure you things will go well. The most important thing for me is for your mother and father to see you because they have done nothing wrong. Your mother and father are trying to be strong in front of people so that nobody knows they are hurting, but your father’s face betrays his pain.

Assiri: Have you spoken to them?

Prince Mohammed: By God, I always ask after them, and speak to them by telephone. I do not do this as a favor.

Assiri: I wanted to call them.

Prince Mohammed: No problem, call them, but make sure that they do not tell anybody.

Assiri: This is the one thing that I wish for, I would like to speak to them along with my brother Ibrahim, if only once.

Prince Mohammed: This would be better.

Assiri: Because if I speak to them alone they may be afraid.

Prince Mohammed: Your father will surely understand but your mother – if you spoke to her and your brother did not – may think something is wrong.

Assiri: By God, I want to meet you and explain the entire situation.

Prince Mohammed: You are most welcome. If you come, we will sit together and each of us will say what we have to say. The most important thing is that your fellows do not delay, what is the situation with the group?

Assiri: They are saying that Sheikh Saeed said that I should hurry up and meet with the prince, but some of the youth are a little afraid.

Prince Mohammed: Afraid of what?

Assiri: I don’t know; some of them are afraid.

Prince Mohammed: It is OK; they have a right [to be afraid]. But you did not ask about Mohammed. He is doing well, and is in his own home.

Assiri: We heard this news, thank God, and after hearing this many of us felt relieved, they said the Prince himself spoke and will give tem attention.

Prince Mohammed: At the outset, let me say that if there is to be a public action it will be dealt with according to Shariaa Law. We are bound to have failed in some areas, but this is unintentional. Let me be frank with you, nobody is perfect. If a person is a murderer, there will be private legal action, and I cannot guarantee a pardon from the bereaved relatives.

Assiri: God bless you.

Prince Mohammed: But thank God, for to the best of my knowledge, you do not owe blood money to anybody.

Assiri: Can you send a plane or something so that I can talk to the youth in your presence? If I talk to them in your presence, they will feel reassured.

Prince Mohammed: Whatever you want will be done. You are the one who can best assess the situation, if the situation can wait until the airplane comes to pick you up, then I can send an airplane.

Assiri: May God bless you.

Prince Mohammed: If the situation cannot wait, do your best to convince your brothers to return.

Assiri: Very well, let me speak to Thamer and I will get back to you.

Prince Mohammed: Talk to him and seek his opinion, but most importantly, do not talk to your mother until Ibrahim is with you.

Assiri: No problem…and we hope that you forgive us and that it will be like this never happened.

Prince Mohammed: Don’t think that I won’t forgive you! You are our son. It is an hour of blessing. We want you to come to our side, and all of you to return home because you mean a lot to us.

Assiri: God willing.

Following this telephone conversation, Assiri was escorted to the palace of the Assistant Interior Minister for Security Affairs, Prince Mohammed Bin Naif, on Thursday night.

During his meeting with Prince Mohammed Bin Naif, Assiri confirmed his desire to surrender himself to the Saudi authorities, as well as the possibility of other suspects wanted by the Saudi Interior Ministry surrendering. The Prince allowed Assiri to contact members of his group via telephone from the palace in his presence; Assiri then handed the telephone to Prince Mohammed and then blew himself up while the prince was on the phone. The Prince was only lightly wounded during the attack. Investigations into this incident are ongoing.

The forensic lab has discovered a number of results with regards to this crime; however Major General Mansour al-Turki informed Asharq Al-Awsat that it is not in the interest of national security to disclose them at this time.

The Interior Ministry published this transcript in order to show the treachery and deceit behind this attempted suicide bombing. This incident shows the reality behind such deviant groups, who would betray the trust of the State. This terrifying incident has not changed the State’s open-door policy towards repentant militants wishing to surrender themselves to the authorities. In the wake of this attack, the Interior Ministry also reaffirmed its confidence and trust in the anti-terror apparatus, and the Munasaha rehabilitation program.