Saudi Arabia arrest 93 terror suspects, foils car bomb plot on US Embassy

Published April 28, 2015

April 24, 2015: Saudi Interior Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Mansour al-Turki listens to journalists questions during a press conference in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (AP)

Saudi Arabia announced the arrest of 93 suspected terrorists with ties to ISIS Tuesday, including two who were allegedly planning a car bomb attack on the U.S. Embassy in Riyadh.

Other potential targets for some of those arrested included residential compounds and prisons.

Authorities said that the potential suicide car bombing at the Embassy involved three individuals -- a Saudi national and two Syrian nationals residing in a Gulf state. The plot was uncovered Mar 13. and authorities took precautions at the Embassy and surrounding area before arresting two suspects the next day.

The timing of the alleged attack coincides with a U.S. decision to halt all consular services for a week starting March 15 at the Embassy and diplomatic missions in Jiddah and Dhahran.

The list of targets recalls a wave of attacks launched by Al Qaeda inside the kingdom from 2004 to 2007, which killed dozens of people, including foreigners, and threatened the stability of one of the world's most important oil-producing nations. Saudi Arabia is also home to Islam's holiest sites, in Mecca and Medina.

Interior Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Mansour al-Turki told the Associated Press there have been five ISIS-related attacks across the kingdom in recent months that have killed 15 civilians and security personnel. But he said Saudis have largely ignored ISIS’s calls to take up arms against their government and attack the Shiite minority, security forces and foreigners living in the kingdom.

"We do have a number of people who do respond to such calls and do try to carry out such terrorist organizations' orders, but these people do not represent the Saudi population, do not represent the 20 million Saudis," he said in remarks to the AP a day before the announcement of the arrests, which took place over several months.

Al-Turki said the security raids included a cell of 65 people arrested in March who were involved in a plan to target residential compounds and prisons. They also allegedly planned to carry out attacks aimed at creating sectarian strife. All but two in the cell were Saudi citizens.

Last week, Saudi Arabia increased security around shopping centers and oil installations for a few days, also in response to security threats.

Al-Turki said another group of nine Saudis, including one woman, were arrested on suspicion they tried to use social media to lure a military officer into a trap and assassinate him.

Other arrests involving alleged ISIS operatives included a cell of 15 Saudis broken up around New Year's. That group, which called itself "Soldiers of the Land of the Two Holy Mosques" in reference to sites in Mecca and Medina, trained in desolate areas in the central ultraconservative region of al-Qassim, al-Turki said.

They built explosives, setting off two test bombs, and also engaged in firearms training.

Earlier in the day, al-Turki said police arrested a suspected IS operative wanted for the killing of two police officers in Riyadh, who were shot dead April 8 while on patrol.

Other ISIS attacks in the kingdom in recent months include the shooting and wounding of a Danish citizen in Riyadh and a separate shooting directed at police in the city that did not kill anyone.

Al-Turki told the Associated Press that a total of seven ISIS-linked suspects have been killed by police in raids.