RIYADH, (AP) – Saudi police have arrested 28 militants of different nationalities who had been ordered by the al-Qaeda to rebuild the network in the kingdom and start a terror campaign in Saudi Arabia, an Interior Ministry statement said Monday.
The statement said that police had found a message from Ayman al-Zawahri, al-Qaeda’s No. 2 leader, on the memory card of a mobile phone of the men, urging the militants to collect money for needy families in Pakistan and Afghanistan. The staff at the official Saudi Press Agency, which carried the statement, said it was an audio message.
The statement said the man received the memory card from another person who had arrived from abroad to the holy city of Mecca.
It quoted the message as saying that its bearer was “‘a trusted brother.'”
“‘Please give him your cash donations to the families of prisoners … in Pakistan and Afghanistan,'” said the letter, according to SPA.
The report added that in order to “secure the necessary funds to finance their criminal activities,” several militants were caught collecting money – at an early stage – under the cover of donations for charity.
The latest arrests bring to 56 the number of militants detained by Saudi authorities since December. The previous arrests also included 28 militants who were allegedly planning to attack sites around the holy cities of Mecca and Medina during the annual Muslim hajj pilgrimage.
Monday’s statement said the 56 men belonged to different nationalities and included the head of the group.
The statement said the militants’ preparations had “reached an advanced stage,” and they included attempts to find hideouts for their cells, forging travel documents and launching a media campaign through the Internet to spread their “deviant ideology.”
They also included recruiting young men and sending them to “other regions and involving them in actions that undermine security in order to harm their nation and compatriots.”
The latest arrests indicate that al-Qaeda and other Islamic extremists are still actively attempting to destabilize the U.S.-allied monarchy, which holds a quarter of the world’s proven oil reserves.
Last April, one of the largest sweeps by Saudi authorities netted 172 militants, including pilots allegedly trained to carry out attacks on oil refineries using civilian planes.
The oil-rich kingdom, which is the birthplace of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, has been waging a heavy crackdown on the group’s militants since a 2003 wave of attacks on foreigners here.