Saudi Arabia says it has arrested 135 people on “terrorism” offences, with dozens suspected of having links to the Islamic State of the Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and planning to destabilise the kingdom.
The country’s interior ministry said on Sunday that 135 people, including 26 foreign nationals, were among those arrested in raids carried out across the country.
Forty of the suspects had gone to “zones of conflict, joined extremist groups and trained in the handling of weapons … before returning to the kingdom to destabilise the country,” interior ministry spokesman, Mansour al-Turki, said in a statement.
Numerous others were implicated in the “financing, recruitment, propaganda and manufacture of explosives … in aid of extremist groups”.
The arrests followed “repeated attempts to harm the security and stability of the homeland”, Turki said.
Seventeen suspects were said to be linked to unrest and armed attacks on security forces in Awamiya, a Shia-dominated community in the eastern province that has been a focus for clashes between minority Shia protesters and security forces.
The 26 foreign nationals included 16 Syrians, three Yemenis, an Egyptian, a Lebanese, an Afghan, an Ethiopian, a Bahraini, an Iraqi and a stateless person.
A Saudi government adviser, who declined to be named, told the AFP news agency that the latest arrests demonstrated the interior ministry was “in control” of the threat posed by ISIL.
The arrests come as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan and Bahrain take part in US-led air strikes against ISIL in Iraq and Syria.
Last week an ISIL-linked media group released a video claiming to show the shooting in Riyadh of a Danish national by its “supporters”, the US-based SITE Intelligence Group said.
Denmark has confirmed that one of its citizens was shot and wounded in the Saudi capital on November 22.
The video carries an audio recording, allegedly of ISIL leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, saying that Saudi rulers will see “no more security or rest”.
In November, Saudi Arabia blamed ISIL-linked suspects for the killing of seven Shia, including children, in Eastern Province.
As the birthplace of Islam and a champion of Sunni doctrine, Saudi Arabia is an important ally for Western countries battling ISIL, and its monarchy a symbolic target for the armed group.