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Saudi arrests seven for Haj attack plot

world Updated: Dec 22, 2007 18:34 IST
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Saudi security forces arrested seven non-Saudi Arabs on suspicion of plotting attacks during the annual Muslim pilgrimage, the Arabic newspaper Al-Hayat reported on Saturday.

The report came a day after the interior ministry said security forces in the oil-rich kingdom, the target of Islamist attacks since 2003, had arrested an Al-Qaeda linked group planning a "terrorist act" during the Haj.

Security forces "arrested seven people of two Arab nationalities, but not Saudis, at the entrance to the city of Mecca," Al-Hayat said, quoting sources within the security services.

"They were planning acts of sabotage during the Haj period," it said, adding that the arrests were carried on December 16 and 17 but without giving details on the plot.

Al-Hayat said the arrests were not announced earlier so as not to create panic among the hundreds of thousands of pilgrims to Islam's holiest sites in and around around Mecca, western Saudi Arabia.

Saudi interior ministry spokesman General Mansur al-Turqi said as the Haj was winding down yesterday that the suspected militants "planned to carry out a terrorist act aimed at harming security and damaging the Haj".

He said the attack planned by a "deviant group", the Saudi term for militants linked to Al-Qaeda, did not however target holy sites in Mecca or the pilgrims.

Al-Arabiya television said the militants were arrested "three days before the start of the hajj season", or at the end of last week.