Without naming the country involved — but leaving copious clues as to the identification — Saudi Arabia announced the arrest of a spy ring operating on the behalf of a ‘foreign country’. Eighteen individuals were rounded up in Mecca, Riyadh, and the Eastern Province. Agence France Presse reports:
(AFP) The Saudi authorities have arrested 18 suspected spies, including an Iranian and a Lebanese, on charges of espionage for a foreign country, the interior ministry said on Tuesday.
“Sixteen Saudis, an Iranian and a Lebanese were arrested in coordinated and simultaneous operations in four regions of the kingdom,” including the capital Riyadh and the holy city of Mecca, the ministry said in a statement.
The suspects were working for a foreign country which it did not name, the statement added.
Asharq Alawsat provides more details — while still avoiding naming the country involved:
Saudi Arabia Uncovers Espionage Cell
Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat—Saudi Arabia announced yesterday that it had arrested eighteen people—sixteen Saudi nationals, one Lebanese national, and one Iranian—on espionage charges in four regions across the kingdom.
The Saudi Interior Ministry revealed that the 18 men had been arrested in Mecca, Medina, Riyadh, and the Eastern Province, adding that they had been conducting espionage activities for an as yet unnamed foreign state. The Ministry said that the men had been collecting information on vital Saudi national installations and infrastructure on behalf of a foreign intelligence agency. Although Riyadh has refused to reveal further information about this foreign intelligence agency, all information indicates that this espionage cell was working for Tehran.
Saudi Interior Ministry Spokesman, Major General Mansour Al-Turki, informed Asharq Al-Awsat that the 18 suspected spies are still being questioned.
He also denied that the detainees have any ties to the “deviant group”, which is Saudi government terminology reserved for the Al-Qaeda terrorist organization.
Another article from Asharq Alawsat suggests that at least some of those involved were ‘sleepers’, people who had settled well into the Saudi system and had achieved positions through which they could learn valuable information about the country and its business.
Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat—Information obtained by Asharq Al-Awsat has revealed that one of the 18 men arrested by Saudi authorities in connection with an espionage cell—the detection of which was announced the day before yesterday—works in the main branch of a high-profile bank in the Saudi capital Riyadh.
Asharq Al-Awsat has learned that individual has over 35 years banking experience, and had recently submitted his request for retirement after working for three months in the global transaction services department of the bank that employed him.
Following the announcement that a Lebanese citizen has been implicated in acts of espionage inside Saudi Arabia, the Lebanese interior minister Marwan Charbel said that the investigations currently being conducted by Saudi Arabia with a Lebanese businessman, allegedly involved with the cell, “remain secret.” In a telephone interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, Charbel added, “So far we have received no information about the accused”, saying that “we trust the Saudi government, and we will wait for whatever information becomes available.”