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03.02.2009 International

Saudis issue overseas wanted list


Saudi Arabia has issued a list of 83 wanted militants living overseas, calling on them to return to their home country and resume normal life.

All the suspects are Saudis, except for two men from neighbouring Yemen.

The kingdom has put many militants returning from the US detention centre at Guantanamo Bay or from Iraq through rehabilitation programmes.

But officials have acknowledged recently that some of these have rejoined armed groups.

Last month al-Qaeda's wing in neighbouring Yemen named two Saudis released from Guantanamo as commanders.

Fear of backlash
Since 2003 Saudi Arabia has cracked down on those suspected of militant activity within the country, saying in October that it had charged 991 al-Qaeda suspects over attacks.

Most militants on wanted lists have been killed by security forces or arrested.

But correspondents say Saudi Arabia has been more cautious in pursuing people suspected of attacks outside the country, fearing a backlash from domestic sympathisers.

Interior ministry spokesman Brig Gen Mansour al-Turki told the Associated Press news agency that the men should turn themselves in to Saudi embassies.

"They will help them return to Saudi Arabia and unite with their families," he said.

"Reuniting with their families may not happen instantly. There may be a process that might include rehabilitation."

The Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya satellite news channel identified one of the 83 wanted as Saleh al-Qaraawi, leader of al-Qaeda in Saudi Arabia.

Saudi TV cited an interior ministry official as saying 15 other men had gone back to their families, and "been helped to return to a normal life".

It said the men had "adopted the straying ideology", a reference to al-Qaeda.