Saudi agents arrest 7 Al Qaida, may have foiled major attack

Monday, February 2, 2004

ABU DHABI -- Saudi Arabia has recorded what could be a major success in foiling Al Qaida plans to launch an attack during the current Islamic pilgrimage to the kingdom.

Saudi authorities have arrested seven Al Qaida insurgents who were said to have been planning an imminent attack. The Interior Ministry said security forces also captured large amounts of weapons and explosives that suggested plans for a suicide strike.

The raids took place on late Thursday, the sources said, hours after six Saudi security agents were killed in a shootout with Al Qaida insurgents in Riyad. The shootout and the raids took place in the Al Siliye district in eastern Riyad, Middle East Newsline reported.

[Nearly 250 Muslim worshipers died in a hajj stampede Sunday during the annual stoning of Satan ritual in one of the deadliest tragedies at the notoriously perilous ceremony, AP reported. The stampede, during a peak event of the annual Muslim pilgrimage, or hajj, lasted about a half-hour, Saudi officials said. There were 244 dead and hundreds of other worshippers injured, some critically, Hajj Minister Iyad Madani said. "All precautions were taken to prevent such an incident, but this is God's will. Caution isn't stronger than fate," Madani said. Most of the victims were pilgrims from inside the Saudi kingdom and many were not authorized to participate, he said.]

Saudi security agents raided at least two suspected insurgency strongholds over the weekend in Riyad on the eve of the Id Al Adha holiday.

About 1.4 million pilgrims have flocked to Mecca, where the kingdom has deployed about 5,000 troops.

The ministry said authorities captured a car packed with explosives as well as 21 explosives belts in the weekend raids. In addition, security forces found such weapons as booby-trapped mobile phones, detonators, grenades, machine guns, AK-47 Kalashnikov rifles, rocket-propelled grenades and launchers.

Saudi security sources said the Al Qaida agents apparently had sought to enter a Western compound or sensitive facility in Riyad. The sources said the insurgents obtained military uniforms in an attempt to smuggle weapons past checkpoints and roadblocks.

On Jan. 12, the Interior Ministry said security forces had captured about 300 explosives belts and nearly 24 tons of explosive materials. At the time, security sources said the material was believed to have arrived from neighboring Yemen.

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