Saudis prevent a big terrorist act during the pilgrimage

Saudi Arabia has arrested a group of men said to have been planning a "terrorist act" during the annual Muslim pilgrimage, according to the Interior ministry.

Saudis prevent a big terrorist act during the pilgrimage
The ministry said on Friday that security forces had foiled a plot to carry out an attack on security forces during the hajj (pilgrimage).

Mansour al-Turki, an interior ministry spokesman, told The Associated Press: "The group was arrested three days before the hajj season."

Al-Turki gave no further details on the identity of those arrested, but the Saudi-owned Arabiya satellite news station described them as Saudis.

"The group aimed to trouble the security of the pilgrimage," the television report said, but quoted Saudi sources as saying the attack did not target Islam's holiest sites in Mecca or the pilgrims.

Security threat

They said the arrests were made in several different cities of the oil-rich kingdom.

Sami Zeidan, reporting for Al Jazeera from Mecca, said Saudi authorities had affirmed the group was "not only linked to al-Qaeda but also intended to disrupt the hajj".

"We've heard of arrests before in Mecca," he said, "But the talk of al-Qaeda targeting hajj is a new element."

He added: "It's difficult to see what al-Qaeda would gain from an attack that would disrupt the Muslim pilgrimage ... It leaves a lot of question marks."


Nearly three million pilgrims travelled to Saudi Arabia for the annual hajj season, which ended on Friday with a final visit to Mecca after days rituals in the surrounding hills.

The authorities were on high alert this year because of the participation of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the first president from Iran to take part in the pilgrimage.

Prince Nayef bin Abdul Aziz, Saudi Arabia's interior minister, said in early December that his forces had foiled "more than 180 terrorist operations" since a wave of bombings and shootings by the Saudi branch of al-Qaeda broke out four years ago.

The Muslim kingdom also said it arrested 208 suspected al-Qaeda fighters over the past few months.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies

Güncelleme Tarihi: 22 Aralık 2007, 10:04