Saudi cracks 62-member Al Qaeda group planning assassinations
The cell comprised of 62 members, including 59 Saudi militants, a Yemeni, a Pakistani and a Palestinian, Interior Ministry spokesman said.
Saudi Arabia said on Tuesday it had uncovered an Al Qaeda militant group with links to ‘extremist elements’ in Syria and Yemen that had been plotting to assassinate officials and attack government and foreign targets.
The cell comprised 62 members, including 59 Saudi militants, a Yemeni, a Pakistani and a Palestinian, Interior Ministry spokesman Major-General Mansour Al Turki said.
Speaking in a live televised briefing, Major-General Turki said the cell had links to the ultra-hardline Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), which is both a powerful Islamist force in Syria’s war and an anti-government combatant across the border in turbulent Iraq.
He said some members of the cell were still at large. “They started constructing components of the organisation, means of support and planning for terrorist operations targeting government installations, foreign interests and assassinating security personalities,” he said.
Saudi Arabia has grown increasingly concerned about radicalisation this year because the war in Syria has spurred what they see as a surge in online militancy.
Officials are worried about a new Al Qaeda armed campaign: Saudi Arabia faced an Al Qaeda insurgency from 2003 to 2006 in which militants targeted residential compounds for foreigners and Saudi government facilities, killing dozens of people.
Maj-Gen Turki said an investigation into social media postings “led security forces after months of hard work to pinpoint suspicious activities that unveiled a terrorist organisation through which the elements of al Qaeda in Yemen were communicating with their counterpart elements in Syria in coordination with a number of misguided (people) at home in various provinces of the kingdom.”
Authorities had found a laboratory to make explosives and seized funds intended for the militant cell close to one million Saudi riyals ($266,600).
Some of those in the cell had previously gone through rehabilitation, Major-General Turki said, referring to educational courses for detained militants intended to wean them off violence.
Maj-Gen Turki said security forces were monitoring “suspicious actions on social networking” “especially after becoming a spacious arena for all extremist groups”.