NEWS

Massive Terrorism Crackdown in Saudi Arabia

By Matthew Harwood

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia announced yesterday that it had arrested 208 people for alleged terrorist activity over the past few months. 

The alleged terrorists are said to have ties to al Qaeda and to have been in six cells. Two of the cells, according to the Interior Ministry, appeared to be in the advance stages of planning attacks.

Officers thwarted an attack on an auxiliary oil facility in the east of the country, arresting eight members of that cell, the state-run Saudi Press Agency said on its Arabic-language Web site, citing the Interior Ministry. Another cell, with 18 members and led by a missile expert, was arrested on suspicion of plotting to smuggle eight rockets across a Saudi border, the agency said in its account.

Another 22 suspects, according to The New York Times, formed a cell devoted to killing clerics and members of the security forces. The paper also reports 112 of those arrested were recruiters who planned to send young Saudis to Iraq and Afghanistan to train beside the insurgents and then have them return to the kingdom to initiate attacks.

A Saudi diplomat told the Times that many of the suspects were caught by monitoring Web sites and analyzing financial flows.

Already expecting attacks against its oil infrastructure, Saudi Arabia, the world's largest oil exporter, announced last month that it will form a 35,000 strong protection force "to guard oil fields, pipelines, and crude processing plants," according to Bloomberg.com.

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