Dubai, Dec. 24 (Reuters): The United Arab Emirates has said it was responsible for arresting Abd-al-Rahim al-Nashiri, identified as al Qaida’s alleged chief in the Gulf, and handed him over to the US.
The US said in November it was holding Nashiri, a suspect in the bombing of the American warship Cole in Yemen’s Aden harbour in 2000, which killed 17 sailors.
A UAE news agency said Nashiri — who, it said, was nicknamed “Qaida’s admiral” for leading naval operations for the militant Islamic group — was held in October for planning to “blow up a number of vital economic targets in the country”.
“He had planned operations aiming at the highest number of casualties among nationals and foreigners, but shifted to alternative plans when that failed,” a senior UAE official said.
A UAE source said Nashiri had been taking flight lessons in the northern emirate of Umm al-Quwain before being arrested. The agency said Nashiri, who was born in Saudi Arabia, was also suspected of involvement in the attack that disabled the French supertanker Limburg off Yemen’s coast in October.
Washington has said he was linked to the 1998 twin attacks on US embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salam.
“We handed him over to the US as part of our cooperation against global terrorism,” the official said. “We are revealing this at this time to ensure the safety of the investigation.”
“He had several passports and identity cards in his possession,” the official said.
Al-Nashiri, was among the top dozen al Qaida leaders sought by US authorities, who said he had close ties with Osama bin Laden over the past two decades.
Yemen asked the US last month to hand al-Nashiri over for his alleged role in the Cole bombing.
Gulf states have largely supported the US “war on terror” but are more cautious about backing any possible war on Iraq.