Foiled Saudi Qaeda cells were recruiting, goverment says

Fri Nov 26, 2010 12:23pm EST
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By Ulf Laessing

RIYADH (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia said on Friday it had captured 149 al Qaeda militants in recent months who were raising money and recruiting members to carry out attacks inside the kingdom, with links to other militants in Somalia and Yemen.

The announcement by the world's largest oil-exporting country was made with elderly Saudi King Abdullah 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.

Turki said the attackers belonged to 19 al Qaeda cells and were planning to target government facilities, security officials and journalists in the kingdom. He gave no names of targets.

When asked whether they had also targeted oil installations in Saudi Arabia, the world's top oil exporter, he said: "We cannot exclude this. Investigations are ongoing."

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

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

"These cells have links with al Qaeda who are disturbing the security in Yemen, with Somalia and organizations in Afghanistan," Turki said.   Continued...

<p>Interior Ministry spokesman Mansour Turki smiles during a news conference in Riyadh November 26, 2010. REUTERS/Fahad Shadeed</p>