RIYADH (AFP) – Saudi authorities said Sunday they had foiled a plot to bomb a football stadium during a World Cup qualifying match and dismantled two “terrorist” cells linked to the Islamic State group.
The interior ministry said in a statement that four suspects from each cell had been arrested.
One of the cells had planned to park a bomb-laden vehicle outside Al-Jawhara stadium in the Red Sea city of Jeddah during an October 11 World Cup 2018 qualifying football match between Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, the ministry said.
Its members were two Pakistanis, a Syrian, and a Sudanese, the ministry said, without providing further details of the plot or arrests.
The other group had been plotting attacks against security forces and its members had received orders from an IS leader in Syria, the ministry said.
Its alleged members were based in Shaqra, northwest of Riyadh, and are all Saudis, the ministry statement said, adding that the suspects had all confessed.
Six other Saudis were detained and were being questioned over alleged links to the cell, it said.
Since late 2014, IS has claimed a series of bombings and shootings against Shias in the Sunni-majority kingdom, as well against security forces.
In another statement, the interior ministry published a list of nine suspects — eight Saudis and a Bahraini, wanted for their alleged involvement in “terrorist” acts in the eastern provinces of Qatif and Dammam, home to most of the kingdom’s Shiite minority population.
The suspects were allegedly involved in attacks against civilians and members of the security forces, the statement said.
It urged the suspects to surrender and offered financial rewards for those who could provide information leading to their arrests.
Eastern areas have seen repeated security incidents since 2011, when a wave of protests began among Shias demanding reform in the Sunni-majority kingdom.
IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has called for attacks against Saudi Arabia, which belongs to the US-led coalition bombing the militants in Syria and Iraq.
In July authorities arrested 19 people, including 12 Pakistanis, in connection with three suicide bombings on July 4 including one near the Prophet’s Mosque in Medina in which four people died.