Al-Qaida-linked plotters hoped to reproduce the Sept. 11 attacks, planning to send suicide pilots to military bases and attack the oil refineries...
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — Al-Qaida-linked plotters hoped to reproduce the Sept. 11 attacks, planning to send suicide pilots to military bases and attack the oil refineries that drive the economy of Osama bin Laden’s homeland, the government said Saturday.
Revealing new details of the purported plot, a government spokesman said some of the 172 attackers trained as pilots in an unidentified “troubled country” nearby.
The spokesman, Maj. Gen. Mansour al-Turki, would not say where the training took place: “It could be Iraq, Somalia, Pakistan; there are so many troubled regions in the world. I can’t specify.”
The monthslong roundup of seven alleged terror cells was one of the biggest sweeps since Saudi leaders began an offensive against extremists after militants in May 2003 attacked foreigners and others involved in the country’s oil industry in a bid to topple the monarchy for its alliance with the U.S.
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Along with the planned suicide attacks, authorities said, the latest arrests also thwarted plots to mount attacks on the kingdom’s oil refineries, break militants out of prison and send suicide attackers to kill government officials. The Interior Ministry also said some targets were outside the country, which it did not identify.
Militants have attacked foreigners living in Saudi Arabia and the country’s oil industry, which has more than 260 billion barrels of proven oil reserves, a quarter of the world’s total. Bin Laden also has urged such attacks to hurt the flow of oil to the West.
U.S. officials have also warned that Iraq, already a training ground for al-Qaida-linked foreign fighters, could become a regional base for extremists planning attacks elsewhere in the region.