On Feb. 11, reports emerged that the Yemeni security services had handed over 29 wanted al Qaeda operatives to Saudi Arabia. Since that report surfaced, there have been conflicting announcements in the Arabic-language media regarding the identities of these alleged terrorists.
Yemeni security officials told Arabic media outlets on Feb. 11 that 14 Saudis belonging to the rank and file of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula were handed over to Saudi Arabia, and that among them was a woman by the name of Um Hani who allegedly had managed to collect millions of dollars for the terrorist organization in Yemen. The report about Um Hani was later denied by another Yemeni source in the security apparatus, however.
Today, the security spokesman for the Saudi Ministry of the Interior, Major General Mansour Al Turki, confirmed that as part of the security arrangement with Yemen, 29 Saudi citizens were handed over to the Kingdom but that none of them were “classified on the ministry’s wanted lists.” Al Turki also categorically denied that there were any women among those handed over from Yemen.
An Aden-based news outlet speculated today that the motivation behind Turki’s emphasis on the lack of danger posed by the Saudis handed over by Yemen is the security apparatus’ desire to downplay the importance of the transfer so as not to link it with yesterday’s prison break in Sana’a. Additionally, the same news outlet suggested that denials of Um Hani’s transfer might be intended to avoid provoking al Qaeda elements, as happened when Saudi Arabia announced the arrest of Hayla Quseir in 2010.
Oren Adaki is a Research Associate/Arabic Specialist at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.