Saudis arrest 172 bomb plot suspects, including trainee pilots
Public figures, oil facilities among the intended targets, officials say
Police have arrested 172 peoplewho wereplotting to attack Saudi Arabia's oilfields and use aircraft in suicide operations,the country's Interior Ministry saidon Friday.
The suspects planned to carry out attacks against public figures, oil facilities and military zones, and onegroup intended to storm a prison and release the inmates, a ministry statement said.
"Some had begun training on the use of weapons, and somewere sent to other countries to study aviation in preparation to use them to carry out terrorist operations inside the kingdom," the statement said.
Al-Arabiyatelevision showedvideo of explosives, ammunition and firearms thatwere found buried in the desert.
The footageshowed investigators breaking tiled floors with hammers to uncover pipeslarge enough to contain rifles. In one scene, they displayed cash and weapons spread out on yellow plastic sheets.
The plot was in anadvanced stage of planningand allthat remained "was to set the zero hour,"Interior Ministry spokesman Brig. Mansour al-Turki told the Associated Press.
Theministrysaid a large amount of cashwasseized in what is being described asone of the largest sweeps against terror cells in the kingdom.
Al-Turki saidthe militants included non-Saudis, but he did not elaborate.
The ministry referred to the suspects as belonging to a "deviant group," a term Saudi officials have used in the past to describe militants inspired by al-Qaeda.
With files from the Associated Press