Bin Laden Is Back in Saudi Arabia – Is Working Closely with Baghdad

debkafile reveals that the long-lost al Qaeda leader, Saudi-born Osama bin Laden, is alive and in Saudi Arabia. He is believed to have landed secretly at the end of September, shortly before the latest upsurge of international terrorist attacks against the French oil tanker Limburg, the shooting of American Marines in Kuwait, the Bali bomb disaster.
This exclusive information reached DEBKA-Net-Weekly (October 18, Issue 81) from its most credible intelligence and counter-intelligence sources. His re-appearance in Saudi Arabia, which withdrew his citizenship and sent him into exile, brings to a close the debate and speculation rife since the Tora Bora battle in Afghanistan 11 months ago over Bin Laden’s fate and whereabouts.
Two sightings of the elusive terrorist chief have now been reported – both in the wildest, most inhospitable regions of Saudi Arabia, the Rub al Khali, the Empty Quarter of the Arabian Peninsula, and Najran on the Yemen frontier.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s sources are certain that Bin Laden has brought with him his closest companions – his Number Two and chief of operations, the Egyptian Ayman Zuwahri, the hard core of the Islamic terror group’s command, his close family and his bodyguard. The size of this party indicates the al Qaeda leadership’s belief they have found a safe hideout, situated in the Rimar Ar Rakabh (Rider’s Dunes), deep inside the Empty Quarter, a 220,000- sq. m expanse, the largest sand sea on the face of the earth which straddles Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Yemen and Oman.
Here, the al Qaeda chief was seen on horseback – the way he was often depicted in Afghanistan before the American 2001 invasion – reportedly riding through the barren lands of the nomadic Al Murrah tribe, about 100 m southwest of the Al Ghawar oil fields.
No signs of disability or ill health were on view.
The Al Murrah, renowned as first rate field scouts, are among the fiercest elements of the extremist Muslim Wahabi sect, Saudi Arabia’s state religion, and number some of Bin Laden’s most fervent followers. Without friends in the Al Murrah, this empty wasteland is impassable and uninhabitable.
The second bin Laden sighting took place in the Najran, a region lying across the frontier between the south Saudi province of Asir and Yemen. Here, he was observed on Saudi Bani Yam Saudi tribal land opposite Oman on the fringes of the Empty Quarter. The Bani Yam are close allies of the neighboring Yemeni tribes of the Hadhramauth, the Saudi-born terrorist’s ancestral homeland.
In the Najran, Bin Laden is not only within reach of his Yemeni friends and kinsmen, but in a position to control and deploy the 700 al Qaeda fighters who escaped Afghanistan at the end of 2001 and early 2002 and set up base in the Asir province.
Al Qaeda fugitives from the Afghan War have settled at strategic points in the Gulf and Middle East Region, a legion of close to 2,000 battle-seasoned zealots, ready and waiting for orders. Intelligence estimates reaching DEBKA-Net-Weekly place around 1,000 fighting men inside Saudi Arabia, most concentrated in the Asir, the rest scattered round the kingdom; 300-400 in Yemen; 150 in the south Lebanese Palestinian refugee camp at Ein Hilwa; 300 in Mashhad, northern Iran; and 150 in the north Iraqi Kurdish districts of Bayara and Tawalla, where Iraqi instructors trained al Qaeda operatives in chemical warfare earlier this year.
His presence in Saudi Arabia explains the easy flow and frequency of statements and messages reaching the Arabic satellite TV station al Jazeera and other media in the region this month from Bin Laden and his lieutenant, that were succeeded in rapid succession by fresh terror outbreaks. Some even speculate in Washington that the mystery sniper who has murdered 9 in the Washington area this month may be an al Qaeda operative.
The most intriguing question is this: How did the Islamic terror master manage to slip into Saudi Arabia? What political and intelligence elements lent him a hand? The American and British maintain an extensive military intelligence presence in the Gulf region for the buildup to the war on Iraq. Without a helping hand from some governmental body or official, Bin Laden and his top staff could not have touched Persian Gulf soil, let alone Saudi Arabia.
How he manages to move in the dark was indicated in the testimony presented by National Security Agency Director Michael Hayden at a Senate hearing. He admitted that these terrorists have learned how to evade US interception technology (first reported by DNW on September 6: Al Qaeda Messages Still Invisible.) While the terrorists are able to feed disinformation to the NSA, US intelligence has virtually no clue that any attack is coming.
What US intelligence has picked up is the deadly partnership taking shape between Iraq and al Qaeda, whose potential for damage gives its heads sleepless nights.
It enables Saddam to vicariously hit US Gulf forces, including warships and carriers and strike at US targets outside the region, as well as giving him the power to manipulate oil prices by sabotaging oil installations and routes, using al Qaeda as his proxy.
And there is more. DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s intelligence sources report the al Qaeda’s return in the last two weeks to their previous training bases at Bayara and Tawalla in northern Iraq. Some 150-180 fighting men are assembled no more than 200 km from the US-Turkish special forces vanguard in the north. They have been joined by a large group of Iraqi military intelligence officers. Together, they have set up a new pro-Saddam enclave of al Qaeda, Iraqi intelligence and Kurdish Islamic extremists in northern Iraq to serve Baghdad as a thorn in the side of the American campaign.
Our intelligence source comments: If Iraqi intelligence and al Qaeda work so well together, there is nothing to stop them from expanding their joint operation to other places, even the United States itself.”
This is what the CIA director George Tenet may have had in mind when he said to the same Senate committee hearing on Thursday, October 17, that the danger of a terrorist attack being attempted on American soil was as acute today as it was before September 11, 2001.
Bin Laden’s return to Saudi Arabia and the bracketing together of al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein confront the Bush administration with new and pressing dilemmas, such as: Whom to go after first? The top al Qaeda command which eluded capture in Afghanistan, or the Iraqi ruler?
These and other explosive revelations appear in the latest issue of our exclusive intelligence electronic publication DEBKA-Net-Weekly for subscribers. For information on how to place your order, click HERE.

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