US embassy in Saudi warns of ‘terror kidnap plot’

Filed on September 30, 2011

RIYADH — The US embassy in Riyadh on Wednesday warned American citizens of a plot by a “terrorist group” to kidnap Westerners in the Saudi capital.

In a statement on its website, the embassy advised “US citizens in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia that we have received information that a terrorist group in Saudi Arabia may be planning to abduct Westerners in Riyadh.”

“The US embassy in Riyadh reminds all US citizens to exercise prudence and enhanced security awareness at all times,” it added.

The warning advised people to keep their security and situational awareness levels high, and offered steps they could take to improve their security.

Saudi Arabia witnessed a wave of deadly attacks by Al-Qaeda between 2003 and 2006, which prompted a security force crackdown on the local branch of the jihadist network founded by the late Saudi-born Osama bin Laden.

Al-Qaeda remains very active in neighbouring Yemen, where the Saudi and Yemeni franchises of Al-Qaeda joined forces under the banner of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

A suicide bomber from the group blew himself up in August 2009 in an abortive attempt on the life of the son of Interior Minister Saudi Interior Minister Prince Nayef bin Abdulaziz, Prince Mohammed, who leads the campaign against Islamist militants in the kingdom.

In late August, Prince Nayef said terrorism remains a threat for the Sunni Gulf kingdom and accused Shiite Iran of targeting it.

“We will continue to be a target for terrorists, who will continue attempting to attack us, supported by other parties,” Al-Eqtissadiya newspaper quoted him as saying.

“Evil surrounds us from all sides,” he said, citing unrest in neighbouring Iraq and Yemen, as well as “Iran and its targeting of the kingdom.” He did not elaborate.

On September 17, suspected member of an Al-Qaeda cell charged with planning attacks against two US military bases in Qatar went on trial in Riyadh.

The cell, dismantled five years ago, was “the most important Al-Qaeda” operation in Saudi Arabia, the attorney general said.

It had “planned attacks in Qatari territory against the Al-Udeid and As-Sailiyah US bases,” he added.

The As-Sailiyah air base and the Al-Udeid camp served as launching pads for the US military for an attack on Afghanistan in 2001 and on Iraq in 2003.

“The cell also had projects aimed at Kuwait,” the attorney general said. He said there was “coordination” between the group and Al-Qaeda cells in Iraq and Syria to “ensure logistical support for their operations.”

In late June, 86 Al-Qaeda suspects went on trial in a special Saudi security court in connection with deadly attacks carried out in the kingdom.

In April, a judicial source said a total of 5,080 terrorist suspects either faced trial or had already been tried before the special court which has come in for criticism from lawyers.

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