Al-Qaida: Abu Gaith, Al-Zawahiri Free In Afghanistan
Jul 10, 2003

A senior al-Qaeda official dismissed Wednesday, July 9, recent reports about the arrest of the network’s second-in-command, its spokesman and one of its leader’s sons in Iran, adding they “are all free and operational”.

The official, speaking to on condition of anonymity, said: “Ayman al-Zawahiri (al-Qaeda’s second man), Sulaiman Abu Gaith (the network’s spokesman) and one of Osama bin Laden’s sons were not detained in Iran. They are all free and they help Osama in running the network from the Afghani mountains”.

Egyptian born al-Zawahiri - who is in good health - and Abu Gaith - who was stripped of his Kuwaiti nationality - have never been to Iran in the first place, according to the same source. He added that one of (Shaikh) Osama’s sons - refusing to name him - had been to Iran some six months ago, but found out it was not suitable enough to stay, so he returned to Afghanistan.

Al-Qaeda official rejected as “sheer lies” the report broadcast by al-Arabiya Satellite Channel Friday, June 27.

Reports, since then, have been going that Iran was locked in highly secretive and complex extradition talks with Egypt, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia over detainees it holds and are widely believed to be top members of al-Qaeda.

According to diplomatic sources, Iran could deal the biggest blow to al-Qaeda since the U.S.-led war on Afghanistan by handing over some of bin Laden's closest aides. But government spokesman Abdollah Ramezanzadeh told Agence France-Presse (AFP) many of the detainees were still being identified, adding that is was unlikely their names would ever be officially released.

"We have not been able to identify all Al-Qaeda members, and even if we did there is no reason for us to give their names to the press. This is a security issue, and this is how security apparatuses work," he said.

Iran has also pointed to its extradition of some 500 fugitives from Afghanistan in the wake of the U.S. ouster of Taliban, a figure that has been independently confirmed by well-kept sources.

One of those allegedly detained was Egyptian-born Saif al-Adel, thought to have taken over as al-Qaeda's number three from military operations chief Mohammad Atef, who was believed killed in Afghanistan in late 2001.

The second is Saad bin Laden, one of Saudi-born Osama bin Laden's eldest sons. In his early 20's, Saad is thought to have taken a senior position in the running of al-Qaeda.

The third believed to be in Iranian custody is Sulaiman Abu Gaith, a Kuwaiti-born al-Qaeda spokesman. "But the negotiations to hand them over are very delicate, so for the moment there has been no official word on who they are," one diplomat said.

Diplomats said negotiations to extradite the detainees have been running for several weeks but were hitting snags, given that Iran has only low-level diplomatic ties with Egypt.

The Dubai-based satellite television news channel Al-Arabiya, quoting Western diplomatic sources, said Friday, June 27, the detainees may also include Ayman al-Zawahiri, bin Laden's Egyptian-born number-two and head of the outlawed Egyptian Jihad group.

Al-Arabiya also said that the detainees included Saudis, Kuwaitis, Jordanians and Iraqi Kurds.

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