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Saudi arrests 28 Al-Qaeda militants

world Updated: Mar 04, 2008 12:59 IST

Twenty-eight Al-Qaeda militants have been arrested by Saudi security forces for allegedly funding the terror outfit's activities in the country with donations collected in the garb of helping the poor in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

"The militants had been collecting funds for supporting the needy in Pakistan and Afghanistan, but the money was being used to finance their criminal activities," an Interior Ministry spokesman said in a statement yesterday.

One of those arrested was carrying a recorded message of Al-Qaeda's second-in-command Ayman Al-Zawahri on the memory card of a cell phone.

"The bearer of this message is one of our trusted brothers, therefore, please give him your donations to help hundreds of families of captives and martyrs in Pakistan and Afghanistan," Al-Zawahri said in the audio recording aired by the Kingdom's state television.

The latest arrests bring to 56 the number of militants detained by Saudi authorities since December. The previous arrests also included 28 militants who were allegedly planning to attack sites around the holy cities of Mecca and Medina.

Investigations proved that the militants belonged to Al-Qaeda and had been in contact with its leadership abroad, the spokesman was quoted as saying by Arab News.

The Kingdom has cracked down on the Al-Qaeda since 2003. It has also build a 35,000-strong rapid reaction force to protect oil installations after a failed Al-Qaeda attack in 2006 on the world's largest oil processing plant at Abqaiq in the Eastern Province.