RIYADH, Saudi Arabia – A senior associate of Usama bin Laden has surrendered to Saudi Arabian authorities, FOX News has confirmed.
Khaled bin Ouda bin Mohammed al-Harbi (search), also known as Abu Suleiman al-Makki or "the crippled sheikh," apparently turned himself in to the Saudi embassy in Tehran, Iran in response to the amnesty offered last month by Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah (search) on behalf of his incapacitated brother King Fahd.
He was then flown to Saudi Arabia, U.S. officials told FOX News.
Al-Harbi is best known for being in a videotape that surfaced a few days after Sept. 11, 2001, in which he is seen laughing and smiling with bin Laden as they discuss the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon over a meal, presumably in Afghanistan.
In a statement, the Saudi Interior Ministry said al-Harbi contacted the Embassy in Tehran from the Iranian-Afghan border, where he was stranded. It did not say what al-Harbi was wanted for. His name does not appear on the list of the kingdom's 26 most wanted Islamic militants.
"Thank God, thank God ... I called the embassy and we were very well-received," the wheelchair-bound and smiling al-Harbi told Saudi state television in the airport terminal. "I have come obeying God, and obeying the [kingdom's] rulers."
Al-Harbi is the third man to take advantage of the amnesty, which was offered June 23, lasts for one month and promises to spare the lives of militants who surrender.
Another militant who has surrendered is Othman Hadi Al Maqboul al-Amri, No. 21 on Saudi Arabia's most wanted list.
Al-Harbi described the amnesty as a "generous offer" and urged other militants to take advantage of it.
He was accompanied by his wife dressed in black and a teenage boy, whom a Saudi security official identified as his wife and son. The ministry said al-Harbi would be taken to hospital for health care. It did not elaborate on his condition.
The exact circumstances of al-Harbi's surrender are unclear. Saudi sources say al-Harbi, who may be ill, was arrested on the border between Afghanistan and Iran border and then taken to the Saudi embassy in Tehran.
Al-Harbi is believed to have lost his legs fighting Soviet forces in Afghanistan about 20 years ago.
A Saudi source told Reuters that al-Harbi had no official documents on his person when he surrendered, and that the embassy had to issue him a new set of papers "after coordination with Iranian authorities" in order for him to fly home.
American officials believe that al-Harbi, whom they described as a "friend and confidant" of the Al Qaeda (search) founder, was not involved on an operational level with the terror network.
U.S. officials cautioned that al-Harbi should not be considered a major Al Qaeda figure.
"He is an extremist cleric whose influence over the last several years has decreased," one official told FOX News.
He was tied into what the official called the "extremist world" three to four years ago, "but is no longer an influential voice." He is now considered a sympathizer and former confidant but officials repeatedly emphasized "not a major Al Qaeda figure," the official added.
But officials are hopeful that al-Harbi could provide useful information and say his appearance marks a success for the Saudi amnesty initiative for terrorists.
A Saudi source told Reuters that al-Harbi was not among the several Al Qaeda suspects that Iran admits to holding. Tehran has refused to give their number, names or nationalities, although Saudi Arabia has requested than any Saudi citizens be extradited.
Nail Al Jubeir, spokesman for the desert kingdom, told FOX News he is surprised that al-Harbi used the amnesty program to surrender.
"The Saudi Arabia amnesty program was not directed at die-hard guys like Jalid al-Harbi who fought side-by-side with bin Laden during the Soviet occupation of Afghan. Those men are always the least likely to surrender. It was directed towards the younger generation, second-tier guys who bought cell phones — those without blood on their hands," Al Jubeir said.
"We think this guy does know a great deal of information on Bin Laden's operation ... what he knows is more structural info ... recruiting methods, his contacts may be useful to tell us more about what safehouses may be protecting these terrorists and what routes they are using to get in/out of Afghan."
"This shows the Al Qaeda organization is not nearly as structured as it use to be," he added.
An American intelligence official told FOX News that there are a "score or more of senior Al Qaeda" in some sort of detention in Iran.
The official discounted earlier reports that the militants had been treated well, even as guests, by the Iranians.
Their circumstances are "not comfortable," the official stressed.
FOX News' Jim Angle, Bret Baier, Dana Lewis, Ian McCaleb, Reena Ninan, Paul Wagenseil and The Associated Press contributed to this report.