Riyadh, June 16 (Reuters): Saudi police have arrested seven suspected Islamic militants in Mecca where five other militants were earlier killed in a police raid, security sources said today.
The sources said seven men suspected of involvement in Saturday’s shootout in Mecca, which is off-limits to non-Muslims, were arrested around the city yesterday. Saudi officials declined to say if the militants were linked to Saudi-born Osama bin Laden’s al Qaida group, which has been blamed for suicide bombings in Riyadh in May against foreigners.
Stung by US charges of not doing enough to prevent the bombings which killed 35 people, Saudi Arabia has boosted security and cracked down on militancy in the oil-rich kingdom. King Fahd, heading a Cabinet meeting today, said the kingdom, the birthplace of Islam, was “facing fierce attacks which harm the (Muslim) faith and threaten national unity”, the official Saudi Press Agency reported.
It said the king called on citizens to combat any attempt to harm the country’s security, stability and interests.
The Saudi-owned pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat reported on its website that the latest arrests took place after an exchange of fire with police on the outskirts of Mecca yesterday. It described the men as “an armed cell” and said they were wounded.
Saudi officials would not confirm the incident.
Saudi Arabia yesterday said police had foiled an “imminent terrorist attack” when they raided an apartment in Mecca that had been rigged with explosives on Saturday night.
Saudi television said five “terrorists” and two policemen were killed in clashes after police raided the building in the middle class al-Khalidiya district on Saturday evening.
Saudi Arabia, which implements strict Islamic sharia law, beheaded a Pakistani man today for smuggling heroin into the conservative kingdom, the interior ministry said in a statement. The execution raised the number of people reported to have been put to death in the country this year to at least 13.
Saudi Arabia executes murderers, rapists and drug smugglers, usually by public beheading. At least 45 people were executed last year, 75 in 2001 and 121 in 2000.
Tens of thousands of Muslim preachers in Saudi Arabia are undergoing a rehabilitation programme to help them deal effectively with terrorism and social issues, a newspaper reported today.
The programme covers preachers and other employees at 49,000 mosques across the vast kingdom, sheikh abdul aziz al-ammar of the ministry of religious affairs told al-watan daily.