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Middle East
Saudis arrest 'al-Qaeda suspects'
Officials say weapons seized and 44 people held on suspicion of plotting attacks.
Last Modified: 20 Aug 2009 06:27 GMT
More than 150 people were killed in 2003-2006 in a series of attacks blamed on al-Qaeda [File:EPA]

Saudia Arabia has arrested 44 suspected people suspected of having links to the leadership of the al-Qaeda movement, the interior ministry says.

Large amounts of weapons and explosives were also seized as the 43 Saudis and one foreign national were detained, General Mansur al-Turki, an interior ministry spokesman, said on Thursday.

"These people have links to the original al-Qaeda organisation," he said.

"I would describe them like a base. They actually work in the area, recruiting young people, giving young people the ideology of al-Qaeda and financing terrorism in the kingdom."

Al-Turki said that the suspects had been planning attacks that would have later been carried out by other recruits of the organisation.

"These people do have a plan, but they don't themselves directly execute the plans," he said.

About 60 machineguns, scores of switches for remotely detonated explosive devices and ammunition were discovered as police searched a residence in Riyadh, the capital, and desert hideouts near Riyadh and in the Qassim region, the interior ministry said.

Lengthy investigation

The official Saudi Press Agency said that the group was arrested as part of an investigation that began more than a year ago and ended on August 2.

Last month, Saudi officials announced that a criminal court had convicted and sentenced 330 al-Qaeda members to jail terms, fines and travel bans in the country's first known trials for suspected members of the group.

The 330 are believed to be among 991 suspected Islamist fighters that Prince Nayef bin Abdul-Aziz, the interior minister, says have been charged with participating in attacks over the past five years.

More than 150 Saudis and foreigners were killed in a series of bloody attacks by suspected al-Qaeda fighters between 2003 and 2006.

In July, Amnesty International, the human-rights watchdog, said that more than 3,000 people were being held in "virtual secrecy" in Saudi Arabia and accused the kingdon of carrying out "secret and summary trials".

Saudi Arabia is the birthplace of Osama bin Laden, the al-Qaeda leader.

Source:
Agencies
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