RIYADH, Saudi Arabia – Saudi Arabia said Wednesday it has foiled several planned attacks on oil installations with the arrests of 113 suspected al-Qaida militants in a months-long sweep.
Many of the suspects had come to Saudi Arabia on visas to visit holy sites or by sneaking across its borders, but wanted to join and organize attacks with al-Qaida, the Interior Ministry said.
Saudi Arabia has aggressively pursued militants since a series of attacks inside the country that began in May 2003. The country is the birthplace of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden and home to 15 of the 19 Sept. 11 hijackers.
The arrests were the first to be announced since August, when Saudi authorities said they had rounded up 44 al-Qaida-linked militants in a yearlong sweep.
The ministry statement said the arrests were carried out over a period of five months. Those detained included 47 Saudis, 51 Yemenis, a Somali, an Eritrean and a Bangladeshi, the announcement said.
Separately, authorities arrested 12 people from two al-Qaida cells originating across the border in Yemen, where a local branch of the terrorist network has established a significant base of operations over the past year. Those two cells were also in the preliminary stages of planning attacks on oil facilities, the statement said.
In the last major attempt on such a facility, suicide bombers tried but failed to attack the Abqaiq oil complex in eastern Saudi Arabia in February 2006. The complex is the world's largest oil processing facility.
In a more recent setback, a suicide bomber lightly wounded the Saudi prince in charge of the country's anti-terrorism program in an August assassination attempt.
The United States, which counts Saudi Arabia as one of its closest Arab allies, praised its anti-terror campaign on Wednesday.
"They have been resolute in their pursuit of terrorists and we commend their law enforcement for its hard work to uproot destructive al-Qaida elements in the kingdom," said State Department spokesman Mark Toner.
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