Fri, May 23, 2003 - Page 6 News List

Arrested men planned attack in city of Jeddah

REUTERS , JEDDAH, SAUDI ARABIA

Three Moroccans arrested in Saudi Arabia this week planned to crash a hijacked airliner on the city of Jeddah, a Saudi security source said on Wednesday, standing by his report despite an official denial.

Saudi Interior Minister Prince Nayef denied any plot to stage a Sept. 11-style attack, Saudi television said.

But the source -- a senior official in the Saudi security service -- confirmed there had been a plot. He said: "They were planning a suicide hijack to attack Saudi landmarks."

He said the arrests were made at Jeddah's airport on Monday, a day before the kingdom went on high alert in response to a warning that more suicide attacks by supporters of Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda group may be imminent.

Television quoted Prince Nayef as saying: "There is no truth in this. The truth is that those who were arrested were two Moroccans who were wanted over previous security cases."

It was not clear if the Moroccans were linked to last week's triple suicide bombings of foreign residential compounds in the capital, Riyadh, or similar bombings in Morocco on Friday.

Forty-one people died in the Morocco attacks, while 34 died in the Riyadh bombings, which were the first to indiscriminately target civilians in the oil-rich kingdom.

Saudi police established during questioning that the men, who were armed, were planning to hijack a plane and crash it into the headquarters of the kingdom's National Commercial Bank in Jeddah in a Sept. 11-style attack, the source added.

"They were thwarted by Saudi forces who had no help from outside," the security source added, without giving further details.

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