SENIOR members of
the Saudi royal family paid at least £200m to Osama Bin
Laden’s terror group and the Taliban in exchange for an
agreement that his forces would not attack targets in
Saudi Arabia, according to court documents.
The papers, filed in a $3,000 billion lawsuit in
America, allege the deal was agreed after two secret
meetings between Saudi royals and leaders of Al-Qaeda,
including Bin Laden. The money enabled Al-Qaeda to fund
training camps in Afghanistan later attended by the
September 11 hijackers.
The disclosures will increase tensions between the
United States and Saudi Arabia. An analyst at the
influential Washington-based Rand Corporation think tank
recently told a Pentagon briefing that Saudi Arabia was
the “kernel of evil”.
The documents, based on investigations by lawyers for
the September 11 victims and hitherto unpublished
information from intelligence agencies, shed light on
Al-Qaeda’s funding, naming the Saudi royals and
detailing the network of charities and businesses
through which Bin Laden raised money.
According to the lawsuit, the Saudi princes were
deeply worried over attacks by Islamic fundamentalists
on American servicemen at a US army training facility in
Riyadh in November 1995 and at the Khobar Towers
barracks in June 1996, in which 19 US airmen died.
They feared Bin Laden’s men, who had recently
relocated to Afghanistan from Sudan, would attempt to
destabilise the kingdom because of their opposition to
the presence of US troops. They therefore decided to
come to an accommodation with the terrorist leader.
The court documents say the first meeting was in
1996, when Saudi princes and business leaders met in
Paris and agreed to give funds to Bin Laden’s
organisation. Saudi Arabia’s secret service, the
Istakhbarat, had already decided in late 1995 to fund
the Taliban, then based primarily in religious schools
A further meeting in Kandahar, Afghanistan, in July
1998 led to the deal between Saudi Arabia and the
Taliban. Those present included Prince Turki al-Faisal
al-Saud, then chief of the Istakhbarat, Taliban leaders,
senior officers from Pakistan’s ISI secret service and
Turki knew Bin Laden well, not just through family
connections but because in the early 1980s he had
hand-picked the young Saudi to organise Arab volunteers
fighting the Russians in Afghanistan.
According to the documents, the agreement stated Bin
Laden would not use his forces in Afghanistan to subvert
the Saudi government. In return, the Saudis agreed to
ensure that requests for the extradition of Al-Qaeda
members and demands to close Afghan training camps by
third countries were not carried out.
To reinforce the deal, the Saudis agreed to provide
oil and financial assistance to both the Taliban and to
Pakistan. The documents detail donations totalling
“several hundred millions” of dollars.
The lawsuit also alleges that the Saudi royal family
has supported charities with close ties to Bin Laden,
including a $6m gift from the Saudi defence minister,
Prince Sultan, to the International Islamic Relief
Organisation, al-Haramain, the Muslim World League and
the World Assembly of Muslim