Saudi Arabia Says it Dismantled a Major Terrorist Organization
Saudi Arabia’s Interior Ministry said on Tuesday it had dismantled a major “terrorist organization” with links to extremist elements in Syria and Yemen, Al Arabiya reports.
The organization was allegedly plotting attacks against government facilities and foreign interests, according to the report.
A statement from the ministry said 62 suspected members of the group were arrested. Among them were three foreigners including a Palestinian Arab, a Yemeni and a Pakistani.
Among the Saudi detainees, there are 35 who had previously been detained on security-related allegations and released, the statement said, according to Al Arabiya.
Members of the organization have “links with extremist elements in Syria and Yemen,” it said, adding that authorities are still hunting down 44 others whose names have been submitted to Interpol.
Interior Ministry Spokesman Major General Mansour al-Turki told reporters in Riyadh that the organization has also made “direct” contact with the Islamist State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the jihadist rebel organization operating in Syria.
The group had been targeting “government and foreign interests” and had planned “wide -scale assassinations,” he said, according to Al Arabiya.
The statement said “suspicious activities on social networks” had facilitated the arrests, without providing further details.
In a later interview with Al Arabiya, al-Turki said terrorist cells in the kingdom are increasingly focused on smuggling operations along the southern border with Yemen.
The fight against terrorism has been a top priority in Saudi Arabia. In February, the Saudi king decreed jail terms of up to 20 years for belonging to "terrorist groups" and fighting abroad, in another attempt to deter Islamist Saudis from becoming jihadists.
In early March, Saudi Arabia blacklisted the Muslim Brotherhood and two Syrian jihadist groups as terrorist organizations, ordering citizens fighting abroad to return home within 15 days or face imprisonment.
Al-Turki said security forces had also dismantled a factory used to make explosives and seized about 1 million Saudi Riyals ($266,000).
He told Al Arabiya the factory was also used in “making electronic circuits which are used in explosions, jamming and eavesdropping.”
Equipment used in forging documents was also seized in the plant, he said.
After a wave of deadly Al-Qaeda attacks in the kingdom between 2003 and 2006, Saudi authorities cracked down on the local branch of the group.
Members of that group went on to merge with Yemeni terrorists to form Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which is based in Yemen and seen as one of the network’s most formidable affiliates.