RIYADH (AFP) – An Islamist academic who was freed under a royal pardon in 2005 is among a dozen Al-Qaeda suspects detained in Saudi Arabia this month, the interior minister said in comments published Saturday.
Saeed bin Zueir, a former professor of mass communication, and his fellow detainees are “considered among the financiers and inciters of terrorism” in the oil-rich kingdom, Prince Nayef bin Abdul Aziz told the Al-Riyadh daily.
Bin Zueir was arrested in 1994 and sentenced to five years in jail for justifying acts of violence but served barely a year of his sentence before being pardoned.
“Those arrested have an influential role and they could be more important than those who committed the terror attacks themselves,” Prince Nayef said.
The Okaz daily meanwhile reported that the number of suspects in custody had risen to 14 after the authorities detained three more.
Announcing the first 11 arrests on Thursday, the interior ministry said one was a suspect in one of Al-Qaeda’s most ambitious operations in the kingdom — a February 2006 assault on the world’s biggest oil processing plant.
Two security guards were killed in the attack but the two suicide bombers failed to get inside the Abqaiq plant in Saudi Arabia’s eastern oilfields.
Saudi Arabia was the country of Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden’s birth and the militant network has been behind a wave of deadly violence in the kingdom since May 2003.