Saudi Arabia arrests hundreds of suspected Isis jihadists

The detainees are accused of planning and launching deadly attacks in the kingdom

Kashmira Gander
Sunday 19 July 2015 19:31 BST
Religious flags, photographs and tributes to 21 victims of a suicide bombing of a Shiite mosque, at a cemetery in al-Qudeeh, Saudi Arabia.
Religious flags, photographs and tributes to 21 victims of a suicide bombing of a Shiite mosque, at a cemetery in al-Qudeeh, Saudi Arabia. (AP Photo/Hasan Jamali, File)

Saudi Arabia has arrested 431 suspected members of the Isis extremist group, reportedly sabotaging planned attacks in the kingdom.

The Saudi Interior Ministry said that the suspected jihadis had been arrested over the “past few weeks” as part of an anti-terror operation, and accused them of being involved in numerous deadly attacks.

Saudi nationals, as well as suspects from nine other countries were arrested, the Saudi-owned Al Arabiya reported.

Members of one five-person-strong cell were tasked with training suicide bombers, while another group of five intended to create explosive belts, according to the website.

Some of those arrested were allegedly involved in a suicide bombing in the eastern village of al-Qudeeh in May, which killed 22 people and amounted to the deadliest terror attack on the nation in over a decade.

The detainees also stand accused of being part of group which shot and killed eight worshippers in the eastern Saudi village of al-Ahsa, and a separate attack in May when a male suicide bomber dressed in a burqa killed four people in a Shia mosque.

The latest arrests come after the Interior Ministry said it thwarted a suicide bomb attack on a mosque in the east of the kingdom that is capable of holding some 3,000 worshippers, as well as a string of attacks on other mosques and official buildings.

Saudi Arabia toughened its stance on Isis last year, by launching air-strikes in Iraq and Syria as part of a US-led coalition against the group’s so called Islamic State caliphate spanning swathes of Iraq and Syria, and by branding it a terrorist organisation.

Theodore Karasik, a Dubai-based geopolitical analyst, told the Associated Press that arrests are part of attempts by the authorities to reassure the hard-line Sunni country’s Shia minority, who have long complained of discrimination in the kingdom.

“It sends a message that the Ministry of Interior is not losing a grip and wraps up the potential nodes of Daesh [Isis] recruits in the kingdom,” he said, using a derogatory Arabic term for Isis which also aligns itself to Sunni Islam.

It is yet unclear how the authorities will deal with the suspects, in a nation that is notorious for its liberal use of executions against prisoners.

Additional reporting by AP

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