Al-Qassem, Asharq Al-Awsat- Saudi Arabia announced yesterday that it had arrested 44 high-ranking members of an Al Qaeda cell. Interior Ministry spokesman, General Mansour al-Turki described this cell as being like “an engine that manipulates others while working in the shadows.” He also revealed to Asharq Al-Awsat that the security operation to arrest this terrorist cell took more than one year.
According to General al-Turki, 30 of the 44 high-ranking Al Qaeda members hold university degrees, including Master degrees and PhD’s, while others were engineering specialists. 43 of the arrested Al Qaeda members were Saudi nationals, while one was an unidentified foreign national.
General al-Turki stressed the danger that this terrorist cell represented to Saudi Arabia, telling Asharq Al-Awsat that members of this cell were reportedly “behind the majority of terrorist operations seen in Saudi Arabia over the past years.” General al-Turki added that not all the members of the “deviant group” were arrested, and stressed that security operations were ongoing.
A Saudi Interior Ministry statement also confirmed the presence of ties between the arrested cell and al-Qaeda leadership abroad, as well as contact between the cell and the field operatives that carried out suicide attacks against vital interests in the Saudi interior.
Since 12 May 2003, Saudi Arabia has witnessed 6 major terrorist attacks, including attacks against the state’s security and vital interests, as well as attacks on the public.
General al-Turki also confirmed that the security apparatus had obtained evidence proving the cell’s involvement in “the deviant group’s [Al Qaeda] activities, from spreading ideology to financing.”
According to General al-Turki these high-ranking Al Qaeda members were able to stay under the security apparatus’s radar over the past few years by establishing terrorist cells that would “carry out their goals without their direct involvement.”
General al-Turki also revealed that some of those who were arrested were well-known figures. General al-Turki, who spoke to Asharq Al-Awsat via telephone, also revealed that these include “figures who exploited certain positions and the level of confidence granted to them” something which indicates that these figures are influential people in the circles that they operate in.
The Interior Ministry spokesman ascribed the length of time it took for the 44 Al Qaeda members to be arrested to a lack of sufficient information and evidence, as the cell were very good at concealing themselves, and a number of the cell exploited charity work to support the Al Qaeda organization.
General al-Turki also revealed that some of the cell underwent training on using light and heavy weaponry, and on techniques for preparing explosives and forging documents.
An Interior Ministry statement read out by General Mansour Al-Turki, indicated that “the security apparatus was able to access information of the followers of deviant ideology and supporters of criminal activity and its attempts to achieve its goals of disseminating deviant ideology through corrupting the youth and exploiting charity work to finance their deviant activities.”
The security apparatus carried out this security operation between 20 July 2008 and 2 August 2009, and this resulted in the arrest of 44 members of the group; some of whom hold high qualifications and advanced technical expertise. In addition to this, some members received training in light and heavy weaponry and techniques for preparing explosives and forging documents.
These arrests also led to the seizure of weapons and ammunition, in addition to electronic detonators in a number of locations throughout Saudi Arabia. These seizures included;
– 17 Kalashnikov assault rifles, 22 boxes of ammunition containing a total of 165,000 rounds of ammunition, in addition to 280 remote electronic detonators, buried in a valley outside to Riyadh.
– 96 remote electronic detonators found buried at a site in the Al Qassim province.
– 50 machine guns, 20 boxes of ammunition containing a total of 150,000 rounds of ammunition, hidden in a private concrete weapons cache in the courtyard of a house belonging to one of the 44 arrested Al Qaeda members in a residential neighborhood of Riyadh.
The security apparatus are well aware of the threat that members of this cell represent to Saudi Arabia, and an Interior Ministry statement made reference to some members “close ties to the leadership of the deviant group [Al Qaeda] abroad.” The statement also said that the Al Qaeda members had “exploited charitable work to execute criminal plans” and that “investigations are ongoing to find out all the facts.”