Al Qaeda figure surrenders to Saudi authorities-TV

Tue Feb 17, 2009 2:38pm EST

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(Adds Yemen says militant extradited on Tuesday, paragraph 4)

RIYADH, Feb 17 (Reuters) - A former detainee in the U.S. military prison camp in Guantanamo who became an al Qaeda commander has turned himself in to the Saudi authorities, Saudi-owned Al Arabiya television said on Tuesday.

Mohammed al-Awfi, who had been released from a Saudi centre for those returning from Guantanamo, appeared on an al Qaeda video last month to say he had joined al Qaeda's regional wing in Yemen as a commander.

The television station said Awfi, on a wanted list of 85 al Qaeda-inspired Islamist militants overseas issued by Saudi Arabia this month, had contacted the Saudi authorities three days ago before surrendering in neighbouring Yemen.

A Yemeni security official told Reuters in Sanaa that Awfi was handed over to Saudi Arabia on Tuesday, after he turned himself in.

Yemen has said it arrested dozens of suspects in a manhunt for al Qaeda-linked militants in recent weeks.

The Saudi interior ministry's spokesman for security affairs could not be immediately reached for comment.

The announcement of the Saudi wanted list followed a move last month by al Qaeda's wing in neighbouring Yemen to name Awfi and a fellow Saudi released from Guantanamo as commanders.

In last month's video, the group's Yemeni leader Abu Basir Nasser al-Wahayshi threatened attacks against Westerners in the region.

Al Qaeda's Saudi wing launched a campaign to destabilise the world's largest oil exporter in 2003 but the violence ended after a long campaign of arrests.

Saudi Arabia also put hundreds of militants through a rehabilitation programme which included religious re-education by clerics and financial help to start a new life.

But the kingdom acknowledged last month that some of those released had rejoined militant groups and that nine, including Guantanamo returnees, had been re-arrested. (Additional reporting by Mohammed Sudam in Sanaa; Writing by Firouz Sedarat; Editing by Jon Boyle)

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