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Two Held in Saudi Arabia on Suspicion of Planning Attacks

  • Reuters

Saudi Arabia said on Thursday it had arrested two men from Yemen and Chad on suspicion of planning suicide attacks, days after the United States closed embassies in the region citing an al Qaida threat.

The pair were detained in late July after they exchanged information on social media about imminent attacks, the official Saudi Press Agency reported, quoting an Interior Ministry official. It said an investigation was continuing into the pair, who used mobile phones and encrypted electronic communications.

The world's top oil exporter and main U.S. Gulf ally is a top target for al Qaida, which carried out attacks in Saudi Arabia a decade ago that killed hundreds.

Last week Washington announced it was closing embassies in the region termporarily.

Al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), based in Saudi Arabia's lawless neighbor Yemen, is one of the militant movement's most active wings.

SPA did not make a connection between the arrests and the closure of the embassies.

Saudi Arabia has arrested thousands of suspects over the past 10 years and accused them of being involved with al Qaida. Attacks have been rare since 2006 when it crushed a domestic campaign by the militant group.

Human rights activists have said some of those detained in the past have been peaceful dissidents who demanded political change, a charge Riyadh denies.

Survivors of the al Qaida group in Saudi Arabia responsible for the 2003-06 attacks are believed to have later fled to Yemen where they joined local militants to set up AQAP.

In 2009, an al Qaida suicide bomber tried to assassinate security head Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, now interior minister, but he was not seriously hurt.