Saudi Arabia breaks up three ISIL terror cells

Interior ministry says 17 people arrested prepared suicide vests and improvised explosives, and provided logistics, cover, funding, arms and transportation for attacks carried out and more being planned.

A photo released by the Saudi Press Agency on September 19, 2016 shows explosives seized by Saudi security forces after breaking up ISIL terror cells. Saudi Press Agency / Reuters
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RIYADH // Saudi Arabia has broken up an ISIL-linked terrorist network that was involved in past attacks in the kingdom and was planning more attacks against civilians, security personnel and government sites.

The Saudi-based network was comprised of three cells, interior ministry spokesman Major General Mansour Al Turki said on Monday.

Seventeen suspects have been arrested. Eleven are Saudi citizens, including a woman, three are Yemeni, two Egyptian and one Palestinian, he said.

Gen Al Turki said the network prepared suicide vests and improvised explosives, and provided logistics, cover, funding, arms and transportation for terrorist operations inside the kingdom. The network communicated “with leaders abroad in all their activities”, he said.

The Saudi Press Agency posted images on its Twitter account showing a pressure cooker, an assault rifle equipped with a silencer and suicide vests that were seized by security forces in the months-long operation.

Gen Al Turki said the security sweep thwarted four terrorist attacks, including an attempt to attach a car bomb to the vehicle of a defence ministry official, and a plan to attack general security trainees by placing an explosive device at the gate of their facility.

He said the sweep also intercepted the delivery of two suicide vests and arrested a Saudi suspect planning to carry out a suicide bombing in the eastern Al Ahsa governorate.

The suspect was allegedly monitoring religious, military and National Guard sites in the area, as well as the Shiite Imam Reda mosque in Al Ahsa, and had communicated with extremists abroad regarding which site to attack.

ISIL-linked attackers in Saudi Arabia have mostly targeted minority Shiites and security personnel, killing dozens of people over the past two years.

The interior ministry said the terrorist network was involved in harbouring two attackers involved in a suicide bombing and shooting attack on the Imam Reda Mosque in January. Two security officers and a civilian were killed in the attack.

The group was also involved in a car bombing targeting a security officer in Riyadh in February, a bomb attack on a security checkpoint in the capital in July last year, a failed attempt to bomb an oil pipeline in Al Dawadmi governorate, and in the murder of a retired brigadier, whose death was announced in February, the ministry said.

* Associated Press