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Middle East
Saudis hunt 47 'al-Qaeda suspects'
International arrest warrants issued for men thought to have been trying to build terrorist cells in the kingdom.
Last Modified: 10 Jan 2011 15:24 GMT
 Saudi authorities believe the wanted men are hiding in Yemen, Pakistan, Afghanistan or Iraq [Reuters]

Saudi Arabia interior ministry officials say they have issued international arrest warrants for 47 suspected al-Qaeda fighters who are thought to have been trying to build "terrorist cells" in the kingdom.

The list includes names of Saudis who hold senior functions inside al-Qaeda and have tried to recruit in the country, authorities said. They are believed to be hiding in Yemen, Afghanistan, Pakistan or Iraq.

"The security follow-up, on those wanted by the security authorities, led to monitoring 47 Saudis who are now outside the kingdom and provided evidence that proves that they follow the deviant [al-Qaeda] ideology and efforts to support its activities," Mansour al-Turki, the interior ministry spokesman, announced on Sunday.

"One of their main goals is really to establish terrorist cells inside the kingdom to recruit Saudis and have them actually to be trained somewhere and to carry out whatever they ask them to."

Training camps

The announcement comes after Saudi Arabia arrested 149 suspects in November. They were believed to be operating 19 cells where they were preparing attacks inside the kingdom as well sending Saudis to training camps in Yemen and Somalia.

Al-Turki said those arrested had connections with some of people named in Sunday's arrest warrants.

Of the 47 wanted suspects described as "very dangerous", 16 had left Saudi Arabia for Yemen, while 27 were last reported to be in Pakistan or Afghanistan, and four in Iraq, the minister said.

The average age of the suspects was 26.

Al-Qaeda launched a campaign to destabilise the world's largest oil exporter in 2003 which was brought to a halt after a long campaign of arrests.

Yemen connection

In 2009, al-Qaeda's Saudi and Yemeni wing merged, and announced that it wants to topple the ruling Al-Saud family.

Saudi Arabia and Yemen share a 1,500km long mountainous border that al-Qaeda has previously used to infiltrate the kingdom.

Saudi concerns about al-Qaeda's presence in Yemen deepened after the kingdom's anti-terrorism chief, Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, was slightly hurt in a suicide attack in August 2009 by a Saudi posing as a repentant fighter returning from Yemen.

Saudi Arabia has put hundreds of al-Qaeda fighters through a rehabilitation programme which included education by Muslim religious leaders "correct" their thinking and financial help to start a new life 

Source:
Agencies
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