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Saudi Arabia Says It Stopped IS Attacks, Arrests 400

  • Edward Yeranian

FILE - Religious flags, photographs and tributes to 21 victims of a suicide bombing of a Shi'ite mosque are displayed at a cemetery in al-Qudeeh, Saudi Arabia, May 30, 2015.

FILE - Religious flags, photographs and tributes to 21 victims of a suicide bombing of a Shi'ite mosque are displayed at a cemetery in al-Qudeeh, Saudi Arabia, May 30, 2015.

Top Saudi Interior Ministry officials announced Saturday that the kingdom had arrested 431 people, mostly Saudis, suspected of belonging to Islamic State sleeper cells.

The Saudi Interior Ministry said in a statement some suspects were alleged to be involved in recent acts of terrorism, while others were alleged to be plotting future attacks on mosques, security forces and other targets in the Sharurah province.

The announcement came a day after an Islamic State attack on a crowded marketplace in Iraq's eastern Diyala province killed at least 115 people.

The Saudi Interior Ministry officials said more than 400 men with ties to Islamic State sleeper cells were arrested overall, with Saudi state TV reading off names of the alleged top ringleaders in the Islamic State cells, showing their photos and describing their terrorist activities.

At a news conference Saturday, they presented weapons, communications equipment, computers and explosives confiscated from those arrested.

Recent attacks

Nearly 200 of the men were said to be involved in two recent attacks on Shi'ite mosques in the eastern province of the country.

Saudi Interior Ministry spokesman General Mansour Ben Turki told journalists that those arrested were involved in several specific attacks, another group was involved in recruiting agents to spread what he called Islamic State's “misguided” ideology.

Turki added that others were involved in plotting future attacks.

Security spokesman Bassam Attiya indicated that most of those arrested belonged to what he called “sleeper cells,” and were in direct contact with Islamic State recruiters or ringleaders outside Saudi Arabia.

Attiya insisted that their primary goals were to sow sectarian conflict and create chaos. adding Saudi security forces had also foiled Islamic State attacks on other targets, including six mosques, a foreign diplomatic mission and security installations.

Last year, Saudi Arabia and its Sunni Gulf neighbors joined a U.S.-led military coalition bombing Islamic State targets in Syria.

The campaign has raised concerns about possible retaliation within the Saudi kingdom.

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