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Middle east

Saudi Arabia arrests 149 people linked to al Qaeda, foils terror plots

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2010-11-26

Saudi Arabia's interior ministry said Friday that security forces had arrested 149 people with links to al Qaeda, most of whom were Saudi nationals, over the past eight months. The ministry also stated that several terror attacks had been foiled.

REUTERS - Saudi Arabia has arrested 149 people from 19 cells linked to al Qaeda over the past 8 months and foiled attacks against government and security officials, the Interior Ministry said on Friday.

The announcement comes as elderly Saudi King Abdullah is in the United States recovering from surgery to treat a blood clot complication from a slipped disc.

“In the past eight months 149 people linked to al Qaeda were arrested, among them were 124 Saudis and 25 were from other nationalities,” Interior Ministry spokesman Mansour Turki told a news conference.

The non-Saudi suspects were Arabs, Africans and South Asians, he said, adding that the thwarted cells had links to al Qaeda in Yemen, Somalia and Afghanistan.

“These cells have links with al Qaeda who are disturbing the security in Yemen, with Somalia and organisations in Afghanistan,” Turki said.

The ministry confiscated 2.24 million riyals ($597,000) from al Qaeda suspects, he said, and militants had tried to collect money and spread their ideology during the Muslim pilgrimages of Haj and Umra in Saudi Arabia.

Turki also said the attackers were also planning to target government facilities but did not say whether they included oil installations.

The television channel al Arabiya reported on Friday that the kingdom had also foiled plans to attack Saudi oil installations.

A Saudi Arabian counter-terrorism drive halted a violent al Qaeda campaign in the Gulf Arab country from 2003 to 2006. Al Qaeda’s Yemeni and Saudi wings merged in 2009 into a new group, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), based in Yemen.

“The organisation is trying to recruit people inside the kingdom. There are cells that facilitate (the recruits) to travel outside (the kingdom) to train and then they return ... they exploit the Haj season for this purpose,” Turki told journalists at the press conference.

Those who had donated money were not aware they were giving to militant organisations, he said.

Saudi concerns about al Qaeda’s presence in Yemen surged after the kingdom’s top anti-terrorism official, Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, was slightly hurt in a suicide attack in August last year by a Saudi posing as a repentant militant returning from Yemen.

The arrests announced on Friday follow one of the largest al Qaeda sweeps in years by Saudi Arabia earlier this year. In March, the kingdom arrested 113 al Qaeda militants including suicide bombers who had been planning attacks on energy facilities in the world’s top oil exporter.

The March arrests netted 58 suspected Saudi militants and 52 from Yemen. The militants, who also came from Bangladesh, Eritrea and Somalia, were backed by the Yemen-based AQAP.

The arrested suspects will not be sent to a rehabilitation programme, Turki said, but will be put on trial. They could be sent to rehabilitation programmes after serving their sentences and showing repentance, he said.

There were still other suspects at large and the ministry asked that they turn themselves in, Turki said.

Date created : 2010-11-26

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