July 05, 2003


A SAUDI Arabian with close connections to Prince Sultan bin Abdul Aziz, the desert kingdomís defence minister, was among five people who were arrested in Malawi on suspicion of channelling money to the Al-Qaeda terrorist network.

The five are believed to have been on a CIA watch list since the 1998 bombings of the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, in which more than 200 people died and thousands more were injured.

The men were arrested two weeks ago in an early-morning operation carried out in Blantyre, Malawiís commercial centre, involving the countryís National Intelligence Bureau and the CIA.

Two days later they were deported in defiance of an order by a high court judge who had instructed the authorities to bring them to court instead.

They are believed to have been flown on a charter aircraft to another African country en route for Guantanamo Bay in Cuba or to another American detention centre.

The Saudi, who was named as Fahad Ral Bahli, is a director of Prince Sultanís Special Committee for Relief, a charity set up by the minister which has offices in a number of African countries.

The other detainees were two Turks, a Kenyan and a Sudanese.

The organisationís Malawi office, based in Limbe, was registered in March last year when Dr Faisal bin Jafar Bali, the manager of religious affairs in the Saudi army and who has the rank of major-general, was nominated as chairman. He also chairs the charitable committees in Mali and Nigeria. Another of the directors is a Saudi colonel.

Nobody at the Saudi embassy in London was available for comment.

(Emphasis added.) This has created some problems for the government of Malawi, a friendly Muslim country, which suggests that we regard it as a matter of considerable importance.

How many links between Al Qaeda and the government of Saudi Arabia are needed to justify regime change there? I'm just, you know, asking.

UPDATE: My brother emails to point out that Malawi isn't a "Muslim country," it just currently has a Muslim President. D'oh!