RIYADH // Saudi Arabia announced yesterday that it had uncovered terrorist cells that had reached "an advanced stage" of preparations to mount attacks on "security men, citizens, residents and public facilities".
An interior ministry spokesman said that a Saudi, who headed a cell in Riyadh, and six Yemeni men had been arrested in connection with the plot and another two Saudi citizens were wanted. Authorities said that for months they had monitored the "suspicious elements", who were in touch with "deviant" organisations abroad.
Security forces raided three rooms, including one attached to a Riyadh mosque. They found cash, chemicals used for explosives, and "booby-trapped mobiles to be used through remote detonations".
The state news agency carried photos of the seized items, which appeared to show gas canisters, mobile phones, several hand guns, powders and chemicals as well as lighters, beakers, cables, batteries and books.
The cell had apparently begun testing explosives outside of Riyadh, during which one member had suffered burns requiring his fingers to be amputated.
The interior ministry said that the ringleader had provided details leading to the arrest of six other members.
The accused's confession also led authorities to a second cell that had been set up in Jeddah. A Saudi national was arrested in connection with that cell.
Two Saudi citizens thought to be in hiding, Saleh Al Suhaibani and Ali Asiri, are wanted by authorities.
It wasn't immediately known whether the cells were linked to Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which has sought to capitalise on the political instability after the Arab Spring protests of 2011.
"This is just the latest reminder that Al Qaeda is still determined to strike outside of Yemen," said Gregory Johnsen, the author of a forthcoming book on Yemen. "Most of its top leaders remain at large and as long as they are alive and free, they will continue to plot against the Saudi royal family and the US."