431 people suspected of belonging to ISIL cells, and thwarted attacks on mosques have been arrested
Saudi Arabia has arrested 431 people suspected of belonging to Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) cells, and thwarted attacks on mosques, security forces and a diplomatic mission, the interior ministry has said.
"The number arrested to date is 431, most of them citizens, in addition to participants from other nationalities. Six successive suicide operations, which targeted mosques in the Eastern province on every Friday timed with assassinations of security men were thwarted," the statement posted on Saturday on the official news agency SPA said.
"Terrorist plots to target a diplomatic mission, security and government facilities in Sharurah province and the assassination of security men were thwarted," it said.
Senior Interior Ministry official Bassam Attiyah said the suspects belong to several "cluster cells" who were operating separately from each other.
"They are aiming to spread terrorism in Saudi Arabia, and they wish to create chaos and rift in the country."
Attiyah also said that the suspects used social media to operate.
The arrests were reportedly made over several weeks, Al Jazeera has learned.
Saudi Arabia has taken several steps to stop its citizens joining fighters in Syria or Iraq, with the country's highest religious authority condemning the armed group as "apostates" and labelling them the "number one enemy of Islam".
ISIL, which according to reports has recruited thousands of foreign fighters, still controls large parts of Syria and Iraq, where it has been accused of committing mass atrocities against civilians and minority groups.
Saudi nationals have been blamed for several suicide attacks within the country and abroad in recent months.
The main suspect in the deadly suicide bombing attack at a mosque in Kuwait was identified as a Saudi national.