BAGHDAD, Iraq – Iraqi border guards captured a Saudi who admitted he was involved in the homicide attack on the Abqaiq oil facility in Saudi Arabia, an Iraqi military spokesman said Thursday.
Abdullah Salah al-Harbi was detained Tuesday by Iraq border guards in the desert along the border between the two countries, said Saadoun al-Jabiri, a spokesman for the Iraqi border guard force.
He quoted al-Harbi as saying five other Saudis crossed the border with him but disappeared in the Iraqi desert. Iraqi forces were searching for them, the border guard spokesman said.
Al-Jabiri quoted the Saudi as telling interrogators that "the last operation I took part in was last week's attack on oil facility in Abqaiq."
Al-Harbi also said he was wanted by Saudi authorities who had carried out raids around his home, al-Jabiri said.
The Feb. 24 attack at Abqaiq was the first assault on an oil facility in Saudi Arabia, which has been battling Al Qaeda militants since 2003. Saudi Arabia is the birthplace of Al Qaeda leader Usama bin Laden.
Homicide bombers tried to crash two explosives-laden vehicles through a gate of the sprawling facility. One collided with the gate, but guards opened fire, detonating them before they could get through, Saudi officials have said. At least two militants and two security guards were killed.
Al-Harbi told interrogators he was headed to the predominantly Sunni northern Iraqi city of Mosul, where he planned to meet cattle merchants who have links with Al Qaeda, al-Jabiri said.
"I came to Iraq to fight Americans, not Iraqis," the spokesman quoted al-Harbi as saying.
The attack in Saudi Arabia raised speculation that militants there were adopting the tactics of insurgents in Iraq, where the oil industry has been repeatedly targeted.
An Al Qaeda statement posted on the Internet indicated the group has encouraged its followers to attack oil facilities, but not wells, in Muslim countries. The statement was at least a year old, but Al Qaeda's branch in Saudi Arabia posted it on a militant Web forum this week to outline the religious justification for the attack on the Abqaiq facility.
Saudi Arabia has the world's largest oil reserves followed by Iraq.