By Wesley Bruer
A senior al Qaeda leader who trained militants in Afghanistan and who has close ties to other top members of the group has been designated by the State Department as a "Specially Designated Global Terrorist."
The designation also comes with sanctions against Azaam Abdullah Zureik Al-Maulid, better known as Mansur al-Harbi.
Though the United States is just now turning its attention to al-Harbi, he has long been a wanted man in his home country of Saudi Arabia.
In early 2009, al-Harbi was among the 83 Saudis and two Yemenis named on Saudi Arabia's list of most wanted terrorists for engaging in extremist activities abroad.
A veteran of Afghanistan's terror training camps, al-Harbi also was wanted for his connections with other senior al Qaeda leaders. According to the U.S. State Department, al-Harbi "traveled to Afghanistan more than a decade ago to join al Qaeda. He is responsible for training militants and for the coordination of foreign fighters who travel to Afghanistan to fight against coalition forces. As a result of his key training position, al-Harbi is closely associated to many senior al Qaeda leaders."
Al-Harbi's most wanted associates include Saif al-Adel, the interim al Qaeda leader following the death of Osama bin Laden. Al-Adel is also wanted for his role in the 1998 African embassy bombings. Another wanted associate, Abdel Aziz Migrin, was al Qaeda's leader in Saudi Arabia but was killed in a shootout with Saudi authorities in 2004.
When the list of Saudi's most wanted terrorists was released, Interpol subsequently issued "Orange" notices seeking information on all of the wanted men and "Red" notices thereafter for 81 of the suspects. Authorities believed all of the suspects were planning attacks against Saudi Arabia from abroad.
Of the 83 Saudi terrorists wanted, 11 were once detainees at the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay. Upon their release they were repatriated and placed in rehabilitation programs aimed at abating their extremist views, but it wasn't long before all 11 fled. Authorities believe they rejoined their jihadist associates in neighboring Yemen, which is home to al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), one of the terror group's deadliest franchises.
Three of them have since surrendered to Saudi authorities. The most recent was Adnan Muhammad Ali al-Saigh, who turned himself in just days ago. Al-Saigh fought with bin Laden's 55th Arab Brigade in Afghanistan prior to the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States and went on to join AQAP after being transferred back to his home country from Guantanamo Bay.