Saudi Arabian authorities have arrested dozens of suspected al Qaeda terrorists in the past eight months, it was announced last Friday. All were planning attacks within the country, officials said.
Many of the 149 suspected operatives had ties to Yemen, according to General Mansour al-Turki, chief spokesman for Saudi Arabia’s Interior Ministry. The arrests disrupted fundraising and recruiting efforts by 19 al-Qaeda terror cells that were developing plans for attacks on Saudi officials, journalists and government facilities.
Among the prisoners were 124 Saudis and 25 others of various nationalities, including Arabs, Africans and South Asians, al-Turki said. Earlier in the year, 113 al-Qaeda suspects were captured as well, including 52 suspects of Yemeni background.
The New York Times reported over the weekend that the Saudis have developed a sophisticated program to combat terrorism since a series of lethal attacks struck the kingdom in 2003. The country’s intelligence operatives, paramilitary units and surveillance systems later feed their captives into jihadist rehabilitation and education programs. According to the report, this has led many Saudi terrorists to flee the country for the far more welcoming climate of Yemen, where it is easier to avoid detection.
This last is especially relevant, due to the rising concern over al-Qaeda’s increasingly active Yemeni affiliate, Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
The group was responsible for the attempted attack last month on two synagogues in Chicago, and a prior attempted attack December 25, 2009 by a Nigerian national thwarted at the last minute on a Detroit-bound flight on Northwest Airlines.