Authorities in Saudi Arabia said they arrested 88 members of a group that was planning attacks inside and outside the kingdom, including assassinations.
The group included three Yemenis and one person whose nationality was not disclosed, the Interior Ministry said, according to the official Saudi Press Agency. The rest were Saudis, and 59 of them had been arrested in the past on terrorism-related charges, it said.
Saudi Arabia has ramped up security after gains in recent months by fighters from Islamic State, an offshoot of al-Qaeda, in Syria and neighboring Iraq. Sunni militant groups have in the past attacked Saudi targets and challenged the Al Saud family’s rule, accusing them of collaborating with enemies of Islam through their alliance with the U.S.
The militants arrested in the latest sweep were divided into 10 cells and were seeking to recruit young people, Interior Ministry spokesman General Mansour al-Turki said at a televised news conference.
They were probably “associated with inactive cells that re-emerged following the rise of the Islamic State,” Khalid al-Dakhil, an independent political analyst based in Riyadh, said by phone. “Saudi might be a long-term target, but for now they are establishing bases in the kingdom to mainly recruit fighters” for the conflicts in Iraq and Syria.
Separately, Saudi Arabia’s Interior Ministry also said today that a fire at a pipeline near the eastern town of Awwamiya was caused by a shoot-out, without giving details. The blaze has been brought under control, the ministry said.
Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province is home to the kingdom’s Shiite Muslim minority, who have held sporadic protests over what they say is discrimination.