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Saudi-UAE links to Abu Nidal militant group, former Palestinian ambassador claims

Abu Nidal was one of the world's most wanted men [AFP]

Date of publication: 18 November, 2017

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Following a wave of attacks on Gulf targets by Abu Nidal Organisation, Saudi Arabia and the UAE attempted to rein in the radical militant, a former Palestinian ambassador has claimed.


The Abu Nidal Organisation received financial assistance from Saudi Arabia and the UAE during the late 1980s and 1990s in an attempt to end the group's attacks on Gulf targets, a former Palestinian ambassador has claimed.

The Palestinian militant group earned notoriety in the Gulf region during the 1970s for the murder and kidnap of a number of Saudi and Emirati diplomats and citizens.

In 1973, the group headed by Abu Nidal took 13 hostages at the Saudi embassy in Paris and demanded the release of an imprisoned Palestinian militant.

This animosity towards Riyadh changed in the 1980s when Sabri al-Banna - better known by his nom de guerre, Abu Nidal - went on pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia meeting leading officials, former Palestinian ambassador Atef Abu Bakr - also known as Abu Farah - told al-Araby TV.

Saudi Arabia was a long-time enemy of Abu Nidal who was expelled from the kingdom in the 1960s, long before he was involved in militancy. 

Riyadh reached out to Abu Nidal during Palestinian unity talks in Algeria in 1987 in an attempt to prevent future attacks, Abu Farah said on the weekly Wa fi Riwaya Ukhra show. 

This was done through Jordanian intermediaries who handed a letter from a leading member of the Saudi royal family, Abu Farah claimed, and helped bring Abu Nidal on side during the 1990s.

Following the move, Abu Nidal was then flown out to Saudi Arabia where he met with intelligence and interior ministry officials, receiving $3 million in funding, the former Palestinian ambassador told.

The militant made another trip to Saudi Arabia following Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in 1990, holding talks with leading Saudi figures. 

Later the two parties would cement the unlikely relationship with Saudi Arabia sending $266,000 to Abu Nidal's personal representative to Riyadh until 1999, Abu Farah claimed.

The former Palestinian ambassador said although Abu Nidal received public support from radical Arab regimes in Iraq and Libya, he also benefited from the discreet, financial backing of Saudi Arabia and the UAE. 

He also alleged that Abu Dhabi provided around $25 million in after an attack on an Emirati carrier and diplomats by his group, helping end Abu Nidal Organisation's targeting of Abu Dhabi.

Abu Nidal Organisation is designated as a terror organisation by the US and responsible for killing or injuring 900 people in 20 countries.

Abu Nidal died in 2002 in Baghdad from a gunshot wound which the Iraqi regime said was self-inflicted, although this claim has been disputed.

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