(dpa) - A senior Saudi official said Wednesday that a terror cell uncovered this week was plotting attacks on oil installations and security forces in Saudi Arabia and receiving instructions from al-Qaeda members operating from an Arab country.
Saudis, three Palestinians and a Yemeni were among the 28 militants arrested Monday in a security sweep on suspicion of seeking to rebuild the al-Qaeda terrorist network in the kingdom, a senior official from the Saudi Ministry of Interior told local newspaper Okaz.
Security forces found during the latest sweep an audio recording from al-Qaeda's second-in-command, Ayman al-Zawahri, on a memory card on the mobile phone of the alleged leader of the terror cell.
The bearer of al-Zawahri's message delivered it to the cell leader in Mecca during the Muslim pilgrimage in December, unnamed security sources told Okaz.
The man, who is believed to be a non-Arab national, might have left the country after delivering the message, the sources added.
An interior ministry statement quoted al-Zawahri as urging militants in the message to raise cash donations for families of prisoners in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Police also seized cash in euros from the terror cell leader. The sources explained that the cell could have received the euros through bank transfers sent from abroad.
Another possibility was that the money was converted from Saudi riyals into euros and was supposed to be sent to al-Qaeda members abroad, according to the sources.
Cell members received instructions from al-Qaeda leaders believed to be operating from a key Arab country, the sources said without naming the country.
They said, however, that it was the same country from where al- Qaeda's former military commander, the Egyptian Sayf al-Adl, was believed to have given the green light for deadly attacks on housing complexes in Riyadh in May 2003.
Al-Qaeda leaders abroad gave instructions to the terror cell to recruit Saudi youths for terror attacks to be carried out in neighbouring countries, the Saudi official said.
Attacks on oil installations, key buildings and security forces in Saudi Arabia were planned by the militants.
Saudi investigators said that militants are now burying their weapons and ammunition underground instead of keeping them in their hideouts, according to security sources.
Saudi Arabia has launched a major crackdown on militants to root out al-Qaeda cells, which have been blamed in recent years for a wave of attacks on oil buildings, housing compounds of international firms and security forces' headquarters.
In December, the country announced the arrest of 56 terrorist suspects.