RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — A wanted militant turned himself in to Saudi diplomats in Syria in response to a royal amnesty offer that expires soon, Saudi newspapers reported Friday.
Ibrahim al-Sadeq al-Qaidy had fought alongside Islamic extremists in Afghanistan and Bosnia, but had more recently been in hiding in Syria, the newspapers reported. It was not clear Friday what charges he faced and whether he was back in his homeland or was at the Saudi Embassy in Damascus.
Saudi and Syrian officials were not immediately available for comment Friday.
Following a series of suicide bombings, gunbattles and kidnappings blamed on al-Qaida members or sympathizers, King Fahd issued an amnesty offer, saying his government would not seek the death penalty against militants who turned themselves in. At the same time, security forces have stepped up efforts to capture those who don’t give up.
Surrender of bin Laden confidant
Al-Qaidy was the fourth to respond. The most prominent of the four, Khaled bin Ouda bin Mohammed al-Harby, returned home Tuesday after surrendering in Iran. Al-Harby was a confidant of al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden, a Saudi-born dissident who portrays the United States as the enemy of Islam and the Saudi royal family as too close to America.
Al-Watan reported on Friday that authorities had given al-Harby’s wife Saudi nationality — her original nationality was unclear.
The unidentified woman was also given a one-time payment of 20,000 riyals — equivalent to $5,300 — and promised monthly payments of 3,000 riyals, or $800, apparently to cover her living expenses, the paper reported.
She had appeared on state-run television dressed head-to-toe in black as she arrived in Saudi Arabia Tuesday with her son and wheelchair-bound husband. Al-Harby, reportedly disabled in both legs while fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan, was hospitalized in Riyadh, Al-Watan reported.
Militants to face trial, but not execution
Under King Fahd’s amnesty offer, militants involved in attacks who turn themselves in will still face trial but the state will not seek their execution if convicted. Those who have surrendered have reported being treated well and at least one has been left in his family’s custody until summoned for investigation.
On Tuesday, Interior Minister Prince Nayef said that there would be no extension of the one-month amnesty, which expires July 23.
The Saudi daily Al-Watan said al-Qaidy called his family last week about the amnesty.
“He called and was wondering, ’Is it true that there is a royal pardon?”’ the newspaper quoted his elder brother Abdel Hamid as saying. “We reassured him and told him it was true, after which he called several times to tell us he has decided to surrender before the time was up.”
Al-Qaidy had traveled to Afghanistan to join the fight against the Soviet Union occupation in the 1990s, and later was wounded in the right hand in Bosnia, his brother Fayez told Al-Watan. He returned home for medical care, but his family reported him missing shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.
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