Saudi Arabia Arrests 18 for Spying

Saudi Arabia arrested 16 citizens and two foreigners for spying, the state news agency reported Tuesday. The official Saudi Press Agency quoted the Ministry of Interior Spokesman Maj. Gen. Mansour al-Turki as saying authorities have arrested 16 Saudis, one Iranian and one Lebanese in a coordinated security across four different regions in the country.

Al-Turki said those arrested were collecting information about vital locations and installations and communicating about them with intelligence agencies in that foreign country. Asked on state television what foreign country these alleged spies worked for, al-Turki refused to name it saying it is in the interest of investigation not to identify that foreign country.

However, Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi told Al Arabiya television shortly after MOI released the statement that the alleged spying network is connected to Iran. Khashoggi said those arrested include a Shia cleric in Jeddah, a doctor and an employee of Aramco. Local Shia news site Rasid reported Monday that a number of Shia citizens in Riyadh, Jeddah, Mecca and the Eastern Province were arrested for unknown motives. Now it appears that the arrests were related to today’s announcement.

AFP published a story earlier today identifying some of the arrested:

The arrests include Dr Abbas Al Abbad, who works at the Specialist Hospital in Riyadh, university professor Ali Al Haji and banker Ahmad Al Nasser, said the activists.

The three who were arrested in the capital are originally from Al Ahsa city, in the Eastern Province, where the kingdom’s Shiite minority is concentrated.

Security forces also simultaneously arrested Ebrahim Al Humaidi in the capital, and his brother Hussain in the town of Sihat, also in the Eastern Province, the sources said requesting anonymity.

In the western city of Jeddah, police arrested Shiite cleric Mohammad Al Attiyah, while cleric Badr Al Taleb, from Sihat, was arrested in Makkah, also in the Western Region, activists said, adding that another Shiite Abdullah Khamis was arrested in Ahsa.