Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat- An investigation is currently underway in Saudi Arabia to determine the identities of several individuals who were hiding in a farm near the Saudi- Yemeni border after illegally entering the Kingdom.
Lieutenant Mansour al Turki, official spokesman for the Interior Ministry, told Asharq al Awsat on Sunday the security services had detained several men who had illegally entered Saudi Arabia from Yemen. They were discovered on Saturday in the Dagharir village, in Samta province, south of Jizan.
There was nothing to suggest the men were connected to terrorism. A preliminary interrogation had revealed they were illegal residents.
Conflicting reports in the media indicated twelve to twenty people had been detained. However, al Turki said, “I do not remember the exact number now” but the most important issue was that they did not belong to any terrorist group.
There were fears that the arrests were connected to the recent prison escape in the Yemen capital. Twenty three inmates affiliated to al Qaeda, some of whom took part in the attack on USS Cole as it refuelled in the Yemeni port of Aden in October 2000 and a 2002 attack on the French tanker Limburg off Yemen ‘s coast, escaped from their prison in Sanaa. Amongst them were Fawaz Yahya al-Rabei, sentenced to death, Jamal al Badawi, sentenced to ten years and Abu Assem al Hadel, who was caught last year after a four-year chase and is described at al Qaeda in Yemen’s second in command.
For his part, Saleh al Santaly, head of border patrols in Jizan, indicated that Yemenis are regularly detained after illegally crossing into Saudi Arabia and estimated their number at 600 per day. He added that elderly men, women and children often enter the Kingdom illegally in search of a better life and denied that any wanted militants had crossed the border.
In Najran, a senior source in the border guards in Najran said illegal border crossings were a daily occurrence with 20 to 30 individuals attempting to enter Saudi Arabia everyday, including women and children, who cross the border region on foot. Many are found to suffer from AIDS and other diseases after health checks are conducted, he added.
Meanwhile, the FBI has added the names of al Badawi and Jaber al Banna to its list of most wanted terrorists. A third, Abdullah al Rimi, is sought for questioning. The FBI has earmarked rewards ranging from five to 25 million to anyone who provides valuable information that may lead to the arrest of any of 26 most wanted terrorists, including Osama bin Laden, Ayman al Zawahiri and Abu Musab al Zarqawi.