Irbil, Asharq Al-Awsat – Two Saudi most-wanted terrorists currently held in Iraqi Kurdistan spoke exclusively to Asharq al Awsat on Monday and revealed details about their arrest and their life in a Kurdish prison.
Abdullah al Ramiyan and Mohammed al Rashudi, whose names appeared on Saudi Arabia’s list of 36 most-wanted terrorists, were captured in September 20003, as they attempted to enter Iraqi Kurdistan.
Abdul Karim Sinjari, minister of state for the interior in Iraqi Kurdistan, told Asharq al Awsat, “Terrorists want to spread their destructive operations to our secure territories.” However, the strong cooperation between the people of northern Iraq and the security services had thwarted several terrorist attacks. Many individuals maintained direct contact with the Kurdish police and informed them of the presence of foreigners in Kurdish territories, the minister added. One wife even informed the police that her husband had taken part in a terrorist attack. “It is best I hand over my husband to the police than for 50 women to become widows.”
The last major terrorist attack occurred in May 2005 when a police training center was targeted. Iraqi Kurdistan has enjoyed calm and prosperity, since the fall of Saddam Hussein, contrary to other parts of Iraq where the security situation has deteriorated and attacks occur on a daily basis.
Islamist militants and would be jihadists were linked to al Qaeda and traveled to Iraq from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Syria and Yemen and other Gulf countries, not to enjoy Kurdistan’s beautiful scenery but to spread terror in the territory, Sinjari said.
Asharq al Awsat met the two 24-year old terrorists, Abduallah al Ramiyan, the Kingdom’s 17 th most-wanted terrorist and a history student in the Mohammed bin Saud university in al Qassim, and Mohammed al Rashoudi, a high school student in Bureida, amid heightened security procedures, in the offices of Lieutenant Ismat Artush.
According to Lieutenant Artush both men confessed they traveled to Iraq to undertake jihad, and had sought to enter Kurdish territory through the Ibrahim al Khalil pass, coming from Turkey without any proof of identity. They were given fake Iraqi names at the border but their cover was rapidly blown because of their foreign accents.
The Kurdish official said the authorities had not sought to extradite the men to Saudi Arabia but established contact with Baghdad in order to determine their fate. “We know they are wanted by Saudi Arabia but we spoke to Baghdad about them.” The men were jailed initially in the city of Dohuk and then Shaklawa before finally being moved 20 miles to the southwest to Irbil . They have yet to stand trial because anti-terrorism laws have yet to be approved by the regional assembly.
Abdullah told Asharq al Awsat he had been traveling to Iraqi Kurdistan for tourism with his best friend Mohammed, after leaving Saudi Arabia to Jordan and then to Syria. The two young men then traveled to Istanbul and Diyarbakir in eastern Anatolia .
“I crossed the border as an Iraqi but on the Kurdistan side, they detained me. I had 2500 dollars in my possession.” On another occasion, he repeated a different version of events and said he had traveled to Iraqi to see his friend’s relatives.
The 24-year-old said he was from al Manar neighborhood in Riyadh and had been held in solitary confinement during the investigation but was later moved to a bigger cell with other Arab and Kurdish prisoners. He denied being physically abused or tortured. When asked about the origin of a prominent cut on his forehead, Abdullah said he had hurt himself as child. He said his family had visited him four times in jail and regularly sent him money. But Lieutenant Artush refuted these claims and said the Saudi inmates had received no visitors. While refusing to be photographed, the terrorist gave Asharq al Awsat his brother’s number to reassure his family.
The meeting with Mohammed Saleh was more tense, with the 24-year old student aggressively answering questions and shouting. As he entered the room, he asked, “Who are you?” to which I replied, “I am a journalist.” “I don’t like journalists. Leave me alone. Kurdish officials have promised they will release me in the next few days.” He said he had enough money to buy essentials such as soap and shaving cream and indicated that one of the benefits of jail was that he had learned to speak Kurdish and tried Kurdish foods.