Manama: Saudi Arabia has busted an espionage cell that included 16 Saudis, one Lebanese and one Iranian.
The 18 suspects were arrested in co-ordinated and simultaneous operations in four regions of the vast Saudi kingdom, the two holy cities of Makkah and Madinah, the capital Riyadh and the Eastern Province, Mansoor Al Turki, the spokesperson for the interior ministry said late on Tuesday.
The operation to bust the cell and arrest its members was launched after the Saudi intelligence services and security forces gathered information that Saudi nationals and foreigners were involved in a spying ring that gathered information for a foreign country on vital sites and installations in the kingdom.
The cell members communicated with the intelligence services of the foreign country that Al Turki did not name. He later told Saudi Television that he could not give the name of the country funding the espionage cell.
“For the sake of the investigation at this stage, I cannot reveal the name,” he said. However, he ruled out links between the cell members and the activities of the “deviant group,” the expression reserved in Saudi Arabia for Al Qaida organization.
The spokesperson said that the suspects would be referred to the legal authorities following the investigation.
No information was divulged about the suspects’ espionage targets, but local Arabic news site Sabq denied allegations that they included princes and senior figures in the country.
“The claims the suspects were gathering information about princes and officials are baseless,” sources told Sabq. “They were implicated in spying on vital sites and installations,” the sources who were not identified said.