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Suspected Militant Carrying bin Laden Letter

Suspected Militant Carrying bin Laden Letter

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RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) -- A suspected al-Qaida operative killed by Saudi police last weekend was carrying a 6-month-old letter from Osama bin Laden, a Saudi newspaper reported Tuesday.

The man, identified as Yosif Salih Fahd Ala'yeeri, was among 19 militants wanted in connection with a weapons cache found shortly before the May 12 suicide attacks at foreign housing complexes in Riyadh, which killed 26 victims including nine Americans.

Police found the letter on his body after shooting him during a car chase Saturday, Al-Watan newspaper reported, citing unidentified sources.

"The sources revealed that a folded handwritten letter, stained with blood, signed with the name bin Laden ... was found in the pocket of the killed," the paper reported.

It said the letter was a season's greetings on the Muslim Eid al-Fitr feast with an Islamic calendar date that corresponds to Dec. 15, 2002.

It also gave a "blessing of the achievements of the groups associated with (bin Laden)," the report said, adding that the address the letter was intended for was unreadable, because it was stained with Ala'yeeri's blood.

The man also had explosives strapped to his body and was carrying four identification cards, a driver's license that did not belong to him, and a global positioning device, the newspaper said.

Officials in Saudi Arabia could not be reached for comment. A call Tuesday by The Associated Press to the Saudi Arabian Embassy in Washington seeking comment was not immediately returned. There was no way to independently verify if the letter was from bin Laden.

Ala'yeeri was among 19 suspected al-Qaida operatives wanted in connection with a weapons cache discovered in the capital May 6, six days before the suicide attacks in Riyadh.

Nine attackers died in the bombings; and of six bodies identified, four were among the 19 named in the weapons cache case. One suspect surrendered a few days after their names were announced. Saudi authorities were still searching for the remaining 13, including an Iraqi with Kuwaiti and Canadian citizenship.

Saturday's car chase began at a checkpoint outside Turba, 124 miles north of the northern Saudi city of Hail.

Ala'yeeri and a companion threw a hand grenade at police during the chase, killing two officers and injuring two others, an Interior Ministry official said. The companion, identified as Abdullah bin Ibrahim bin Abdullah Alshabrami, was arrested.

In an interview with the London-based Asharq al-Awsat newspaper, Ala'yeeri's father said he had not seen him for years.

"He is dead now, in a way that we wouldn't have hoped to see any of our country's sons go," Saleh Ala'yeeri said from his home in Dammam, in the eastern part of the kingdom.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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