ABU DHABI Ñ Saudi Arabia has captured a large Al Qaida cell that had
planned to attack U.S.interests in the kingdom.
Saudi officials said the cell was composed of 19 members who had trained
in Al Qaida camps in Afghanistan. They said the cell had accumulated a large
amount of weapons, including the advanced RDX explosive.
"The security services seized a large stash of weapons, explosives and
munitions in Riyad Tuesday which were intended to carry out acts of
terrorism," a Saudi Interior Ministry statement said.
The ministry said 19 people have been arrested, 17 of them were Saudis.
The non-Saudis were identified as a Yemeni and an Iraqi, with Canadian
The statement said additional arrests have also been made. The ministry
said additional details would be released later.
Later, Western diplomatic sources said the Al Qaida cell had planned to
attack a series of U.S. and British targets in the kingdom. The sources said
it was not clear whether the Al Qaida cell was responsible for previous
attacks on Westerners in Saudi Arabia.
The ministry said the seizure of the weapons took place during a pursuit
of unidentified suspects connected to an explosion that took place east of
Riyad on March 18. A ministry source said a shootout erupted during the
pursuit and the fleeing gunman hijacked a car.
"Inspection operations carried out by the security men led to the
capture of 55 hand bombs, 208 shots, 87 gunshots, in addition to travel
documents, identity cards, notebooks, bulletins as well as 253,717 Saudi
riyals and $5,300," the ministry said. "When the house from which the
suspects fled was searched, five big iron bags full of about 377 kilograms
of explosives, four machine guns with three boxes containing about 2,250
bullets and other
ammunitions, in addition to five computer sets, and a number of
telecommunications devices were found. Meanwhile, a car, containing three
gun machines and quantities of masks as well as other items, was detected at
the courtyard of the house."
Saudi officials said more than 200 Al Qaida insurgents have been in
detention. As late as March, Saudi Interior Minister Prince Nayef Bin Abdul
Aziz assured the United States that Al Qaida no longer posed a threat.
Last week, the State Department urged Americans to leave Saudi Arabia
and warned that terrorists were in the final stage of an attack on U.S.
nationals in the kingdom. The department also warned Americans against
traveling to Saudi Arabia.
The Saudi Interior Ministry urged anybody who knows of any insurgency
plots to contact authorities. The ministry warned against sheltering any