RIYADH, (Agencies) – The arrest of 172 suspected militants did not end the al Qaeda-linked threat in Saudi Arabia, the interior minister was quoted as saying on Saturday, vowing to maintain a crack down on the group.
Prince Nayef also told the Arabic-language al-Riyadh daily that a Saudi man was being held on suspicion of leading one of the seven cells which had been smashed, foiling a plot to attack oil facilities and military bases. “We cannot say that we are finished from these deviants,” said Prince Nayef. “But efforts will continue. The eyes … are wide open and efforts are under way to purify our country from every evil,” he added.
The Interior Ministry said on Friday it foiled an al Qaeda-linked plot to attack oil facilities, military bases and public figures in western-allied Saudi Arabia, arresting a total of 172 people, including some who had trained to use aircraft for suicide attacks.
It said police also seized weapons, computers and more than 20 million riyals ($5 million) in cash.
Islamist militants swearing allegiance to al Qaeda launched a violent campaign against Saudi Arabia, carrying out suicide bomb attacks on foreigners and government installations, including the oil industry.
Saudi Arabia is the world’s top oil exporter, supplying about 7 million barrels a day to world markets. It holds nearly a quarter of the world’s oil reserve.
Prince Nayef said Riyadh was also holding a Saudi man believed to be the leader of one of the broken cells, after members swore allegiance to him at the Kaaba, a sacred site inside the Grand Mosque in Mecca, Islam’s holiest city. “Unfortunately, he is a Saudi. He was arrested along with the group,” he said, without giving further details.
Asked if the man was the leader of the group, he said: “If this man looks at himself as such, we are not sure. But no one pledges allegiance to someone unless he himself has presented himself as a leader and has followers.”