18 'terrorism' suspects in Saudi Arabia
RIYADH - Saudi security forces have arrested 18 suspects with ties to cluster cells loyal to the jihadist Islamic State group, the interior ministry said on Thursday.
They were arrested over the past week during raids on "terrorist cluster cells" in the capital Riyadh, the neighbouring Qasim district and the holy western cities of Mecca and Medina, a spokesman said.
Fifteen of those arrested were Saudi citizens, while two were Yemenis and one Sudanese, said the spokesman in a statement published by the official Saudi Press Agency.
The suspects, all men, are also accused of aiding two jihadists who detonated explosive belts after clashing with police on January 21 in the Red Sea city of Jeddah, said the spokesman.
Security forces seized automatic weapons during the raids, along with knives and more than two million riyals ($533,270), the spokesman said.
Authorities had arrested last month 13 Pakistanis and three Saudis over suspected links to the two jihadists who blew themselves up during a firefight with security forces in Jeddah.
The kingdom has witnessed a series of deadly attacks claimed by IS since late 2014, mostly targeting the Shiite minority and security forces, killing dozens of people.
Saudi Arabia, a key ally of the United States, was hit by two suicide attacks in July 2016 in Mecca and Medina.
The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attack near the Prophet's Mosque in Medina, which killed 15 people.
No one has yet claimed the attack on Medina, which left four security guards dead.