Saudi authorities have detained 701 suspected al-Qaeda-linked members this year, including some who were plotting attacks against the kingdom's oil and economic installations, the Interior Ministry said Wednesday. Of those initially arrested, 520 remain in custody while the others were freed because there was no proof linking them to the terror network, according to a ministry statement, carried by the official Saudi Press Agency.
The detainees had planned a car bomb attack against one of the kingdom's oil facilities, the statement said. They belonged to "cells" which planned to revive "criminal activities" in the kingdom, and their leaders were based outside the country, it conveyed.
One of the suspects had a message from Ayman al-Zawahri - al-Qaeda's No. 2 leader - which police had found. According to the police, the message called on the suspect to raise money and instructed him that al-Zawahri will "provide persons ... who will arrive from Iraq, Afghanistan and north Africa to target oil installations and fight security forces."
The suspects "in fact began to plot to target an oil installation and another security (target) with car bombs," the statement said. The ministry said those arrested took advantage of "communication facilities" offered to pilgrims.