August 26, 2006

Saudi says 34 militants seized in al Qaeda swoop

RIYADH (Reuters) - Four militants arrested in the Saudi
city of Jeddah this week were part of a group of 34 men rounded
up in an effort to prevent a resurgence of al Qaeda violence,
the Saudi interior ministry said on Saturday.

The four Islamist radicals surrendered on Monday after
Saudi security forces besieged the building where they had an
apartment in the Red Sea port.

"Security work led to the arrest of 34 people of different
nationalities in Mecca, Medina, Riyadh and Jeddah because they
belonged to the 'deviant group' and had links to escapees from
the Malaz prison," a statement on official news agency SPA

Officials have said that two of the men arrested on Monday
were among seven people who escaped from the Malaz detention
center in Riyadh in June.

Saturday's statement said weapons and locally-made
explosives were found in the Jeddah apartment.

"They were using the flat as a hide-out and as a factory
for instruments of death and destruction," it said. It did not
specify when the other 30 men were arrested but said they had
been under surveillance in recent weeks.

Officials say more than 136 militants and 150 foreigners
and Saudis, including security forces, have died in attacks and
clashes with police since May 2003, when suicide bombers hit
three Western housing compounds in Riyadh.

The violent campaign by supporters of al Qaeda leader Osama
bin Laden has ebbed in the face of toughened security measures.

King Abdullah said in comments published on Saturday that
he had personally intervened to ensure that the lives of
militants -- who he called "rascals," using an Arabic word
normally used to refer to naughty children -- were spared in
the Jeddah siege.

The comments in an interview with the Saudi daily Asharq
al-Awsat suggested that Saudi Arabia, the world's biggest oil
exporter, is increasingly confident that it has tamed the
3-year-old militant campaign to depose the U.S.-allied royals.