Saudi police (AP/Hassan Ammar) (AP/Hassan Ammar)
Saudi police

Saudi security forces recently thwarted several ISIS plots aimed at destabilizing the kingdom, including a planned suicide attack on the US embassy in Riyadh.

Al-Turki Saudi Arabia

Maj. Gen. al-Turki (AP/Hasan Jamali)

Fearing instability and the fall of the regime, Saudi security forces began cracking down on Islamic terrorists within the kingdom’s borders, focusing their efforts on uprooting the Islamic State’s (ISIS) terror network in the country.

Saudi Arabia announced on Tuesday the arrest of 93 suspects with ties to ISIS in recent months, saying they were in the process of planning multi-pronged attacks on the US embassy in Riyadh, on security forces and on residential compounds where foreigners live.

Authorities disrupted a plot for a suicide car bomber to attack the American embassy in Riyadh after receiving information about the plan in mid-March, Interior Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Mansour al-Turki told The Associated Press. Two Syrians and a Saudi citizen were arrested in relation to the plot.

The timing of the allegedly planned attack coincides with a US decision, based on security information, to halt all consular services for a week, starting March 15, at the embassy and at diplomatic missions in Jeddah and Dhahran.

The US embassy in Riyadh is located in a large, heavily guarded compound together with other embassies. It is surrounded by fortified barriers and guarded by police, and a US Marine checks visitor passes inside.

There were five ISIS-related attacks across the kingdom in recent months, which killed 15 civilians and security personnel, al-Turki said, adding, however, that the Saudis themselves have largely ignored the terror organization’s calls to take up arms against their government and to attack the Shiite minority, security forces and foreigners living in the kingdom.

Saudi Arabia’s security forces are better prepared than ever to fight back against the Islamic State, al-Turki stated.

The recent security raids included a cell of 65 people arrested in March who were involved in a plan to target residential compounds and prisons, he explained. They also allegedly planned to carry out attacks aimed at creating sectarian strife. All but two in the cell were Saudi citizens.

A String of ISIS Attacks in the Kingdom

The list of targets recalls a wave of attacks launched by al-Qaeda inside the kingdom from 2004 to 2007, which killed dozens of people, including foreigners, and threatened the stability of one of the world’s most important oil-producing nations. Saudi Arabia is also home to Islam’s holiest sites, in Mecca and Medina.

Last week, Saudi Arabia increased security around shopping centers and oil installations for a few days, also in response to security threats.

Al-Turki said another group of nine Saudis, including one woman, was arrested on suspicion of attempting to use social media to lure a military officer into a trap and assassinate him.

Other arrests involving ISIS operatives included a cell of 15 Saudis broken up around New Year’s. That group, which called itself “Soldiers of the Land of the Two Holy Mosques,” in reference to sites in Mecca and Medina, trained in desolate areas in the central, radical region of al-Qassim, al-Turki said. They built explosives, setting off two test bombs, and engaged in firearms training.

ISIS terrorists were previously blamed for an attack on Saudi border guards near Iraq that killed three security personnel in January as well as a shooting attack on Shiite worshipers in al-Ahsa in the Eastern Province in November, which killed eight people. Two police officers died in raids that led to the arrests of suspects behind the al-Ahsa shooting.

Other ISIS attacks in Saudi Arabia in recent months include the shooting and wounding of a Danish citizen in Riyadh and a separate shooting directed at police in the city that did not result in casualties.

Al-Turki told AP that a total of seven ISIS-linked suspects have been killed by police in raids.

By: AP and United with Israel Staff

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