Saudi Arabia says arrests 431 Islamic State suspects, thwarts bombings
DUBAI – Reuters
Historical buildings are seen in the UNESCO-listed heritage site in the Saudi Red Sea city of Jeddah. AFP photoSaudi Arabia has arrested 431 people suspected of belonging to Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) cells and thwarted attacks on mosques, security forces and a diplomatic mission, the interior ministry said on July 18.
The announcement came after a car bomb exploded at a checkpoint near the kingdom's highest security prison on July 16, killing the driver and wounding two security officials in an attack claimed by ISIL.
A string of deadly attacks carried out by followers of the ultra-hardline militant group based in Iraq and Syria has fuelled concerns about a growing threat of militancy in the world's top oil exporter.
"The number arrested to date is 431, most of them citizens, in addition to participants from other nationalities ... six successive suicide operations which targeted mosques in the Eastern province on every Friday timed with assassinations of security men were thwarted," the ministry statement posted on the official news agency SPA said.
"Terrorist plots to target a diplomatic mission, security and government facilities in Sharurah province and the assassination of security men were thwarted," it said.
ISIL has called on supporters to carry out attacks in the kingdom and killed 25 people in two suicide bombings at Shi'ite Muslim mosques in the country's east in May.
A Saudi man, reportedly aided by several other men from the kingdom, blew himself up in a Shi'ite mosque and killed 27 worshippers in June.
The group says its priority target is the Arabian peninsula and in particular Saudi Arabia, home of Islam's holiest places, from where it plans to expel Shi'ite Muslims.
The interior ministry said the suspects arrested in the kingdom were carrying out "schemes directed from trouble spots abroad and are aimed at inciting sectarian strife and chaos."