Bin Laden Son, Al Qaeda Terrorists Spotted in Iran; Tehran Puts Military on Alert Anticipating U.S. War on Iraq

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), February 15, 2003 | Go to article overview

Bin Laden Son, Al Qaeda Terrorists Spotted in Iran; Tehran Puts Military on Alert Anticipating U.S. War on Iraq


Byline: Bill Gertz, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

U.S. intelligence agencies say Osama bin Laden's oldest son, Sad, is in Iran along with other senior al Qaeda terrorists, as Iranian military forces have been placed on their highest state of alert in anticipation of a U.S. attack on Iraq, according to intelligence officials.

Sad bin Laden was spotted in Iran last month, according to officials familiar with intelligence reports. Sad is believed to be a key leader of the al Qaeda terrorist network since U.S. and allied forces ousted the ruling Taliban militia in Afghanistan.

Officials said it is not clear what relationship Sad has with the Tehran government, which on Thursday denied congressional testimony by CIA Director George J. Tenet that al Qaeda terrorists are in Iran.

The new reports are the first time senior al Qaeda terrorists have been identified in Iran. Earlier reports have indicated other al Qaeda fighters have been granted refuge in Iran from neighboring Afghanistan.

The intelligence on bin Laden's son comes as the Bush administration has released intelligence indicating Iraq is working with al Qaeda terrorists, including a senior associate of Osama bin Laden who has been in Baghdad since May.

A CIA spokesman declined to comment when asked about the intelligence reports about Sad's whereabouts.

London's Arabic-language newspaper Al-Sharq al-Awsat, quoting a diplomatic source, reported from Rome on Thursday that Sad was seen in Iran. The newspaper said it is not clear whether other senior al Qaeda are in Iran.

U.S. officials confirmed that Sad is among the senior al Qaeda believed to be in Iran after the newspaper report appeared.

Sad, 23, is the oldest of Osama bin Laden's 27 children from several wives. He lived with his father in Sudan and Afghanistan, and fled Afghanistan in December 2001.

Meanwhile, Iranian military forces are on heightened alert and Tehran leaders fear U.S. military forces will use operations against Iraq as a steppingstone for invading Iran.

The Iranian military activities appear similar to Iran's response to the 1991 Persian Gulf war, when Iranian military forces built up in large numbers along the border with Iraq.

So far, the Iranian forces have not massed near the Iraqi border, but are expected to do so if U.S. military operations against Iraq occur.

Mr. Tenet said at a Senate hearing Tuesday that "we see disturbing signs that al Qaeda has established a presence in both Iran and Iraq."

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said yesterday that Mr. Tenet's claim was "baseless," state-run Tehran radio reported. "The seriousness of Iran's fight against terrorism, and its expelling those suspected of links to al Qaeda, has always been clear, sincere and transparent," he said.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld also said in a Senate hearing in September that the Iranian government is "currently harboring reasonably large numbers of al Qaeda," while keeping the support for the terrorist group from its people. …

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