Saudis have arrested more than 200 suspects since May 12

Thursday, August 28, 2003

ABU DHABI Saudi Arabia has arrested more than 200 suspected Al Qaida insurgents since the May 12 suicide strikes in Riyad.

Saudi officials said the crackdown reflects a strategic decision by the kingdom to eliminate the Al Qaida presence. They said the May 12 suicide strikes attributed to Al Qaida were the Saudi equivalent to the Al Qaida strikes on New York and Washington on Sept. 11, 2001.

The crackdown has been led by Saudi Interior Minister Prince Nayef Bin Abdul Aziz, the officials said. They said Nayef has used special operations forces trained by the United States to detect and track suspected insurgents in what the officials termed a flexible and rolling plan.

In the 100-day period since May 12, officials said, authorities have arrested 204 suspected insurgents, Middle East Newsline reported. They said 17 insurgents and nine security officers have been killed in operations. Another 26 security officers were injured in shootouts.

Authorities have also seized 21 tons of explosives and 300 rifles and pistols. In addition, authorities seized 220 grenades and $283,000 in insurgency assets.

The key goal of the crackdown, officials said, was to capture a 19-member Al Qaida command believed to be operating an insurgency network in the kingdom. So far, 12 of the 19 insurgents have been arrested.

The security plan has taken into account different operations for a range of areas believed to contain Al Qaida strongholds. Officials said security forces raided strongholds in Riyad, Mecca, the northern governate of Jawf and the eastern region of Qassim.

Officials said the Al Qaida insurgency cell was established and sustained by about $15 million over the last year. They said Saudi authorities have obtained new information on funding from Al Qaida from regional and Western sources.

On Tuesday, a U.S. government delegation was expected to arrive in Riyad to open a permanent presence in the kingdom that would monitor insurgency funding. The delegation would include agents from the FBI and Internal Revenue Service. Officials said the two countries would establish a joint task force led by Saudi Arabia.

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