Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat – Saudi Arabia yesterday announced that over the past 8 months, it has dismantled 19 terrorist cells, arresting 149 suspects in a number of Saudi regions. Of these 149 terrorist suspects arrested by the Saudi authorities, 124 are Saudi nations, the majority of whom are of a young age, whilst the 25 remaining suspects arrested are of Arab, African and South Asian origin.
The terrorist cells that were uncovered and arrested over the past 8 months aimed to spread chaos and destruction throughout Saudi Arabia by undertaking a number of suicide operations against military targets, as well as by assassinating government officials and military figures.
Major General Mansour al-Turki, the Saudi Interior Ministry’s security spokesman, revealed yesterday that the 19 terrorist cells had ties to Al Qaeda organizations in Yemen, Afghanistan, and Somalia.
He also revealed that the Saudi Ministry of Interior had informed Interpol of the names of persons involved in and in some cases behind this terrorist activity who reside outside of Saudi Arabia.
During a press conference held yesterday in Riyadh, Major General Mansour al-Turki confirmed that some of the 19 terrorist cells arrested by Saudi authorities had reached “advanced stages” in their planning and preparation, and these terrorist operations were only foiled by the timely intervention of the Saudi Arabian security apparatus.
He also reveled that at least 9 or 10 terrorist plots “were on the verge of being carried out” before the cell’s were arrested by the Saudi Arabian security authorities.
Major General al-Turki also confirmed that the Al Qaeda organization was exploiting the hajj season in order to obtain funding and recruit new members.
Answering a question put to him by Asharq Al-Awsat about the precise methods used by Al Qaeda to exploit the hajj season, Major General Mansour al-Turki confirmed that the Saudi security authorities had arrested Muslim youths with previous ties to Al Qaeda attempting to enter Saudi Arabia in order to facilitate recruitment in Saudi Arabia, as well as smuggling groups of new recruits across borders to undergo training in neighboring countries.
According to the Interior Ministry’s security spokesman, the 19 terrorist cells had 4 primary goals, and these included “publishing takfirist ideology, facilitating recruiters transferring cells to troubled regions, carrying out criminal operations that aim to spread chaos and destabilize security, and raise funds to support Al Qaeda, both at home and abroad.”
The security apparatus seized the possessions of the terrorist cells, including funds of more than two million riyals, as well as computers and arms.
Of these 149 terrorist suspects arrested over the past 8 months, 148 were men, and there was one woman, a Saudi national who played a role in promoting Al Qaeda on the internet. This woman has been released by the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Interior, with Major General Mansour al-Turki saying that Saudi Arabia is committed to rehabilitating women involved with Al Qaeda, surrendering them into the custody of their next of kin.
As for the reason why the Ministry of Interior has not released Haylah al Qassir, who is known as Mrs. Al Qaeda, he said that the situation is different and there is difficulty in releasing Haylah al Qassir due to the extent of her involvement in Al Qaeda affairs, and the absence of any guarantee that she will not resume terrorist activities upon her release.
Haylah al Qassir was implicated in sheltering a number of terrorists from justice, in addition to raising funds for the Al Qaeda organization in Yemen.
Among the results of the crackdown against Al Qaeda operations in Saudi Arabia over the past 8 months was a number of terrorist operations in their advanced stages being foiled, and the seizure of arms and documents relating to terrorist operations. Interpol has been informed of the names of figures implicated in these terrorist plots who are residing beyond the borders of Saudi Arabia.
Major General Mansour al-Turki revealed that among the 185 terrorist suspects arrested by the authorities were some related to the list of 85 most wanted terrorist suspects issued by the Ministry of the Interior in February 2009. He also disclosed that some of those embroiled in these terrorist cells were not arrested, reiterating the security authority’s call for anybody with any information to visit their nearest police station.
Major General Mansour al-Turki ruled out any connection between these foiled terrorist attempts and the recent airplane parcel bombs, which Saudi security authorities initially warned their US counterparts of.
Saudi Arabia revealed the detection, and indeed foiling, of these terrorist operations takes place during the same period that Kuwait has uncovered spy networks in the country, and Bahrain uncovered terrorist operation that aimed to overthrow the government.
Asharq Al-Awsat also asked Major General Mansour al-Turki about the security challenges being faced by the Gulf States, and the level of security cooperation between them. Al-Turki confirmed that cooperation between GCC countries “takes place at the highest level, and that Al Qaeda can only be defeated through joint effort.”
Major General Mansour al-Turki also stressed that Saudi Arabia has uncovered all the sleeper cells operating within the country, which was something previously stated by Second Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Prince Naif Bin Abdulaziz.
Of the 19 cells uncovered by the Saudi security apparatus, 10 cells were discovered to be part of three larger terrorist networks, with the remaining 9 cells operating independently.
The first terrorist network was made up of 4 different cells comprising a total of 41 members; one of these cells was planning to carry out operations that target security officials and installations, whilst another cell was targeting security officers.
The second terrorist network was made up 3 different cells comprising a total of 24 members; these cells had a number of objectives including carrying out terrorist operations targeting security figures and military sites, as well as publicizing Al Qaeda ideology and raising funds.
The third terrorist network was made up of 2 different cells comprising 16 members; this network aimed to carry out terrorist operations targeting security figures.
As for the remaining 9 terrorist cells comprising 79 members, these operated independently of one another. 3 of these cells had direct links with the Al Qaeda organizations, and specialized in manufacturing explosives and providing training in bomb-making, as well as providing explosives which was to be used to target security officials and military sites.
Major General Mansour al-Turki expressed his conviction that the number of people arrested, and the relative youth of the vast majority of these, reflects that Al Qaeda is still capable of recruiting and radicalizing youth.
The Saudi Arabian Interior Ministry statement said that “the concerned authorities in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia are still monitoring the criminal movements of the deviant group stationed outside the country including the continuing endeavors of its leadership to find a foothold for its elements inside the country by exploiting Hajj and Umrah (Minor Hajj) seasons to spread their expiatory ideas and lure teenagers and instigate them to adopt killing and sedition behaviors under fallacious claims and by raising money using illegal means that harm the concept of charity…in addition to plans to recruit some elements to help them carry out plots targeting the security and capabilities of this country, its citizens and expatriates indifferent of the sanctity and blood of Muslims or guests…Thanks to Allah Almighty, those deplorable attempts were intercepted and foiled.”
The statement also revealed that “an amount of SR 2,244,620 was found hidden in some sites and confiscated from them [the terrorist cells]. Among their plans, was to facilitate the travel of those lured to troubled regions and carry out criminal plots aiming to spreading chaos and breaching of peace.”
The Saudi Arabian Interior Ministry also revealed that “based on information published by deviant groups on their websites, the user of the following terms: Qatel, Anwar, Al-Moheb Lellah and Abu-Rayan was apprehended. Also the user of the following terms: Al-Asad, Al-Muhajer, Al-Ghariba, Bint Najd Al-Habiba and Al-Najm Al-Sate’a was also arrested. Following thorough investigation and resettling her case, she was repatriated to her family.”