Manama: The secretary general of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) has condemned repeated attempts to plant espionage cells in the member countries.
“These attempts to undermine the security and stability of the member countries are desperate criminal and terrorist moves that reveal animistic intentions by the parties sponsoring them,” Abdul Lateef Al Zayani said, hours after Saudi Arabia announced it had busted a spy ring.
On Tuesday evening, a Saudi interior ministry spokespersons aid that 18 people, 16 Saudis, one Lebanese and one Iranian, were arrested simultaneously for their role in the espionage network working for a foreign country that was not named.
The spokesperson, Mansoor Al Turki, refused to divulge more details, saying that the investigation into the case was continuing, but said that the arrests were launched following coordination between intelligence and security services in the kingdom and that the 18 cell members were arrested in the two holy cities of Mekkah and Madina, the capital Riyadh and the Eastern Province. He said that they were spying on vital sites and installations in the kingdom.
Al Turki however ruled out a link between the cell members and the “deviant group”, the expression used in Saudi Arabia to refer to Al Qaida organization. According to a report in the London-based Al Sharq Al Awsat, the 18 members were arrested between 8 and 9 am on Sunday.
The daily believed that the members worked for Iranian intelligence agencies. Al Hayat daily said that the cell members included a doctor, a religious figure and two academics.
“One of the members lived in a European country for four years before he moved to an Arab country. He eventually ended up in Saudi Arabia,” the Saudi-owned daily said. “We fully commend the efforts deployed by Saudi Arabia to maintain its security and stability and to ensure the safety of citizens and residents,” Al Zayani said in his statement. “The GCC fully supports Saudi Arabia on all the measures it takes on the issue, based on the premise that the GCC security is common to all members and that targeting the security of one country is a threat to all states,” he said.
The GCC groups together Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. It was formed in 1981 in the UAE capital Abu Dhabi.