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Saudi Arabia Announces Arrest of 400 Alleged Islamic State Militants

A statement from Saudi Arabia's Ministry of the Interior said the arrests made during the past few weeks foiled a number of planned attacks.

by Tessa Stuart
Jul 18 2015, 4:20pm

Imagen por Ali Hassan/EPA

The government of Saudi Arabia announced Saturday that it has arrested 431 suspected militants loyal to the Islamic State (IS). The majority of those arrested were Saudi citizens, although "participants from other nationalities" were also involved, according to a report distributed via the country's official state news agency.

"Terrorist plots to target a diplomatic mission, security and government facilities in Sharurah province, and the assassination of security men were thwarted," the statement said.

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The hundreds of suspects now in custody are not believed to have all been working together. Instead, the Saudis said, they were part of a number of cells operating separately who have been apprehended in recent weeks. Among those arrested are several suspected IS members who the government believes are responsible for a bombing that killed 21 people in the village of al-Qudeeh in May. IS claimed responsibility for the attack, which was the deadliest in Saudi Arabia in more than 10 years.

In addition, the government believes those responsible for a shooting that took place in the village of al-Ahsa in November that claimed eight lives are now in custody. Those arrested were also suspected of maintaining a number of militant websites used to recruit new members to the organization.

According to Reuters, those arrested stand accused of a range of crimes, from smuggling explosives and surveying attack sites to providing material support to bombers and manufacturing suicide vests.

The ministry also believes they have arrested a number of individuals who assisted the suicide bomber who blew himself up in the parking lot of a Shiite mosque during Friday prayers, in May. The man, who was disguised as a woman, killed four people.

IS called on its supporters to stage attacks around the world throughout the holy month of Ramadan. Muslims celebrated Eid al-Fitr, the end of Ramadan, on Friday.

Related: Iraq Just Closed Its Border With Jordan to Battle the Islamic State

With the arrests, Saudi Arabia claims to have thwarted at least six suicide missions that suspected militants allegedly planned to stage "every Friday" at mosques in the country's Eastern province.

One such suicide attack, that militants planned to stage in June, reportedly targeted a large mosque in eastern Saudi Arabia that can hold 3,000 worshippers.

Follow Tessa Stuart on Twitter: @tessastuart

The Associated Press contributed to this report.