Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat- The coach of the Saudi Arabia”s national Karate team Saad al-Qahtani, sheltered the number one suspect on Saudi”s security list of 36 Most wanted terrorist, Majid Al-Haseri who was killed in Qahtani”s house by security forces.
Relatives of Qahtani have affirmed that he did not show any extremist tendencies. Other coaches who trained at the Asia Center, owned by Qahtani added that he did not show any ideological affiliations with terrorism. Qahtani”s neighbors further reiterated this point.
As Qahtani”s arrest took place in Riyadh, an identical sting operation took place in the Al-Bahr neighborhood in the city of Medina where Qahtani”s colleague, Mohammed Al-Owaida had lived. Neighbors confirmed that Al-Owaida had left the vicinity a while ago when he developed an affinity to extremism. Security forces further stated that he was a popular member of the Abu Sayyaf group, which fought in the south of the Philippines, which he reached via the Japanese borders.
According to official information that was released after the clashes in Medina and Riyadh, Qahtani received a phone call from an acquaintance requesting that he temporarily shelter two suspects.
Sources assert that the call most likely came from Mohamed Al-Owaida as they had a close relationship with Al-Qahtani because of their shared love for the Martial Arts. Qahtani”s religious tendencies were embodied in the system set up at his sports center. Training was in accordance to certain criteria such as keeping one”s hair short and avoiding fashionable clothing that imitated western teams. He also portrayed a personal outlook on what he called commitment to religious codes of dress.
Qahtani”s link to terrorism was discovered after a number of calls between members of a terrorist cell associated to Saleh al-Awfi were traced to Qahtani. Security forces believe it is too early to determine whether Qahtani was directly involved in terrorist activities, as the investigation is still in progress.
Musharaf bin Ali Al-Shahry, a former champion and member of the national Karate team who is now works as an international referee says that his colleague Qahtani a graduateof King Saud University did not sympathize with terrorists. Musharaf has long known Qahtani since they worked together as coaches at the Prince Faisal bin Fahd center. They also trained together at the Asia Center and Musharaf states that he even allowed Qahtani to supervise the training of his own team. Qahtani is married and has four children. He was trained in a number of countries, and most importantly in Japan. There he obtained a black belt and devoted his time to training children in Riyadh in the private center that he established.
As for Mohamed al-Owaida, he was also a karate champion. His coaches stated that he was amongst the best in the country however; his ideological changes took him away from the sport.
Close acquaintances say that he frequently discussed the importance of learning the art of karate and other forms of self-defense to serve both "nation and religion" especially for those "who struggle for God”s cause". It is for this reason that he often supervised the training of a number of individuals who are believed to be members of terrorist organizations in the privacy of his residence in the Al-Bahr neighborhood of Medina.