Suspects arrested

SAUDI Arabia has arrested 431 people suspected of belonging to Islamic State (IS) militant group cells, the interior ministry says.

The ministry also said it had thwarted attacks on mosques, security forces and a diplomatic mission.

The announcement came after a car bomb exploded at a checkpoint near the kingdom’s highest security prison on Thursday, killing the driver and wounding two security officials in an attack claimed by IS.

A string of deadly attacks carried out by followers of the ultra-hardline militant group based in Iraq and Syria has fuelled concerns about a growing threat of militancy in the world’s top oil exporter.

“The number arrested to date is 431, most of them citizens, in addition to participants from other nationalities,” the ministry statement said on the official news agency SPA.

“Six successive suicide operations which targeted mosques in the eastern province every Friday timed with assassinations of security men were thwarted.

“Terrorist plots to target a diplomatic mission, security and government facilities in Sharurah province and the assassination of security men were thwarted.”

IS has called on supporters to carry out attacks in the kingdom and killed 25 people in two suicide bombings at Shiite Muslim mosques in the country’s east in May.

A Saudi man, reportedly aided by several other men from the kingdom, blew himself up in a Shiite mosque and killed 27 worshippers in June.

The group says its priority target is the Arabian peninsula and in particular Saudi Arabia, home of Islam’s holiest places, from where it plans to expel Shiite Muslims.