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Former Gitmo Detainee Tried to Kill Saudi Prince

From hunger striker to would-be suicide bomber.

4:33 PM, Aug 20, 2010 • By THOMAS JOSCELYN
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Al Qaeda really wants to kill Prince Muhammad Bin Naif Bin Abdul Aziz, who is the Saudi deputy interior minister and oversees the Kingdom’s counterterrorism efforts. According to the Saudi Gazette, al Qaeda has tried to kill the prince four times since 2004.

The first attempt “involved a bomb-laden vehicle that was used to target the Ministry of Interior building in Riyadh.” In a second attempt, al Qaeda fired a missile at the prince’s plane but missed when the pilot took “evasive action.”

In a third attempt, an al Qaeda suicide bomber stuffed explosives in his bum and tried to blow up the prince. The bomber was on the Saudi Kingdom’s most wanted list and had agreed to turn himself in. The prince agreed to accept his surrender in person and that turned out to be a bad idea.

The fourth attempt is noteworthy because it involved a former Guantanamo detainee. Here is how the Saudi Gazette describes it:

Two Al-Qaeda terrorists, Yusuf Al-Shehri and Raed Al-Harbi, who were armed with explosive belts, were involved in the fourth attempt… The terrorists were confronted by security men at Hamra Al-Darb checkpoint, located in the southwest part of the Kingdom, and killed in a shootout at the scene.

…After they were killed in the confrontation at Hamra Al-Darb checkpoint on Oct. 13, 2009, an investigation revealed that they were carrying four explosive belts from Yemeni territories to the Kingdom, sources said. 

This took place at a time when the terrorist organization, acting on orders from an Al-Qaeda leader in Yemen, had psychologically prepared two terrorists in the Kingdom to carry out the fourth attempt against Prince Muhammad Bin Naif’s life, according to sources. 

Yusuf Al-Shehri is a former Gitmo detainee. We’ve known since last year that Al-Shehri was killed in a shootout with Saudi security forces as he tried to cross from Yemen into his home country. But we didn’t know that Al-Shehri was on his way to launch an attack against Prince Muhammad Bin Naif when he was killed.

The Saudi Gazette says Al-Shehri and his accomplice were carrying four explosive belts. They were wearing two of them and were carrying two more that were intended for two other al Qaeda terrorists who were already positioned inside the Saudi Kingdom.

At Gitmo, Yusuf Al-Shehri was a hunger striker who, like other Gitmo detainees, attempted to use his refusal to eat as a publicity stunt to secure his freedom. As Debra Burlingame and I explained in the Wall Street Journal earlier this year, Al-Shehri’s lawyer told him that the U.S. military had no court authority to “force feed” him. Al-Shehri pulled his feeding tube and convinced other detainees on his block to do the same – thereby causing still more problems for military officials in charge of camp security.

At least Yusuf Al-Shehri no longer needs to refuse meals.

Thomas Joscelyn is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.      

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