Saudi Arabia arrests al-Qaeda terrorists targeting oil installations

Saudi Arabia, continuing its long-standing efforts to protect the country’s oil facilities, announced the arrest of more than 100 suspected militants linked to the terrorist al-Qaeda organization.

Eric Watkins
OGJ oil Diplomacy Editor

LOS ANGELES, Mar. 26 -- Saudi Arabia, continuing its long-standing efforts to protect the country’s oil facilities, announced the arrest of more than 100 suspected militants linked to the terrorist al-Qaeda organization.

Mansour al-Turki, spokesman for the ministry of interior, said the suspected terrorists “were targeting the oil facilities in the Eastern province, and they had plans that were about to be implemented.”

There was no statement concerning the exact date of the arrests or which oil installations were targeted.

The interior ministry said the arrests were carried out over a period of 5 months and resulted in the detention of 47 Saudis, 51 Yemenis, a Somali, an Eritrean, and a Bangladeshi.

Most of the militants were arrested in the southern province of Jizan, close to the border with Yemen. Belts of explosives, weapons, cameras, documents, and computers were also seized, the ministry said.

According to al-Turki, the investigation has so far revealed “correspondence between this organization and al-Qaeda's organization in Yemen.”

The Yemeni group, known as al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), recently issued a manifesto aimed at disrupting oil shipping in and around the Arabian Peninsula, especially through the Bab al-Mandab Strait at the entrance to the Red Sea.

At the time, the Al-Quds al-Arabi newspaper said, "The organization does not need to recruit thousands but just few hundreds to implement some of its aims, among them infiltrating into the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the gulf countries where two thirds of the world's oil reserves are (OGJ Online, Feb. 15, 2010).”

Henry Wilkinson of Janusian Security Consultants said most indications are AQAP remains largely undiminished by counter-terrorist activity in Yemen and represents “a consistent if not growing threat to the oil sector and Western interests in the region.”

Justin Crump of the Stirling Assynt Business Intelligence Group agreed, saying the target is credible, as hitting the oil industry is “a persistent, stated objective of AQAP.” Crump added that an increase in “hostile reconnaissance” near oil sites was picked up nearly a year ago.

This week’s announcement follows a string of arrests and attacks by al-Qaeda in Saudi Arabia over the past several years.

Contact Eric Watkins at hippalus@yahoo.com.

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