Saudi Arabia foils terror plots in major crackdown; over 400 suspects arrested

Family members of victims and well wishers are seen after a suicide bomb attack at the Imam Ali mosque in the village of al-Qadeeh in the eastern province of Gatif, Saudi Arabia, on May 22, 2015.Reuters

Saudi Arabia intensified its crackdown on Islamic State militants and sympathisers in the kingdom, announcing over the weekend a massive operation that resulted in thwarting terrorist plots by the jihadist group.

In an official statement, the Interior Ministry said it arrested 431 people linked to ISIS and foiled plots to attack religious, security, and diplomatic institutions.

The agency said they prevented a suicide bomb attack on a large mosque in eastern Saudi Arabia last month. The mosque could hold over 3,000 worshippers.

The ministry also said security forces also foiled other terror plots including those targeting mosques as well as diplomatic and security offices.

It said those arrested in the "past few weeks" carried out attacks while others ran the militant websites responsible for recruiting new fighters.

One such attack was the suicide bombing in May which killed at least 21 people in the village of al-Qudeeh, in the oil-rich eastern Qatif region. That attack, claimed by the ISIS, is considered to be the deadliest militant assault in Saudi Arabia in over 10 years.

In November last year, eight worshippers in the eastern Saudi village of al-Ahsa were shot and killed.

According to the ministry, those arrested also launched an assault in late May in which a male suicide bomber dressed as a woman killed four people as he blew himself up in the parking lot of a Shiite mosque during Friday prayers.

Saudi Arabia considers ISIS as a terrorist group. It has joined the US-led coalition against the Islamist extremist group targeting militants in Syria and Iraq.

The Saudi announcement came a day after ISIS launched an attack on a crowded marketplace in Iraq's eastern Diyala province, leaving 115 people dead, sparing not even women and children.