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Saudis foil 'air attack plotters'
Saudi Arabia says it has foiled a plot by militants to carry out suicide air attacks on oil installations and military bases.
Foreign nationals were among 172 terror suspects held in a series of raids, the interior ministry said on state TV.
Large amounts of weapons and $32.4m (£16.21m) in cash were also seized.
The Saudi authorities have been battling al-Qaeda since a wave of bombings and shootings in the kingdom in 2003.
"Some [militants] have begun training on the use of weapons, and some were sent to other countries to study aviation in preparation to use them to carry out terrorist operations inside the kingdom," a ministry statement read out on state TV channel al-Ekhbariya said.
Some of the military targets were outside the kingdom, it added, without specifying where.
The station broadcast footage of various types of weapons, including plastic explosives, ammunition cartridges, handguns and rifles wrapped in plastic sheeting, which were said to have been buried in the desert.
"The deviant group is linked to foreign elements and takes advantage of trouble spots outside the kingdom in planning, recruitment and training," interior ministry spokesman Gen Mansur al-Turki told local media, apparently referring to Iraq.
He added: "Some individuals were training to fly to carry out terrorist attacks... Some of the cells arrested planned to target oil installations and refineries."
Militants were trying to resume efforts to undermine security and target the Saudi economy, Gen Turki said.
Story from BBC NEWS:
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia -- Al-Qaida-linked plotters hoped to reproduce the 9/11 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 yesterday.
Disclosing new details of the purported plot, a military spokesman said some of the 172 attackers trained as pilots in an unidentified "troubled country" nearby, hoping to use the planes to carry out suicide attacks.
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 militants allegedly wanted to use planes "like car bombs ... to use the aircraft as a tool to carry out suicide operations," al-Turki said by phone. Targets included Saudi military bases that militants had no other way of reaching but by blowing up an aircraft, he said.
"The last group (we) rounded up are carriers of al-Qaida ideology, working on achieving al-Qaida goals, which is to take over the society," al-Turki said.
The months-long roundup of alleged Islamic militants from seven terror cells was one of the biggest terror sweeps since Saudi leaders began an unrelenting offensive against extremists after militants attacked foreigners and others involved in the country's oil industry seeking to topple the monarchy for its alliance with the U.S.
Along with the planned suicide attacks, authorities said the latest arrests also thwarted plots to attack the kingdom's oil refineries, break militants out of prison and send suicide attackers to kill government officials.