Saudi Interior Minister Prince Nayef said yesterday his country had foiled a terror attack on pilgrims in the holy city of Mecca.
"These people are targeting the [holy Muslim] month of Ramadan. This is an evil aim. They wanted to make the entire country a place for terror without any exception and even in the holiest place on earth where Saudis and non-Saudis come to pray to God," he told the leading newspaper Saudi al-Riyadh.
Saudi Arabia said it foiled an imminent terrorist attack and killed two Muslim militants in a shootout in Mecca on Monday.
Nayef told the paper that during that clash, Saudi police had also arrested six other militants, believed to be linked to Saudi-born al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
He said police arrested four of the militants and two others handed themselves over. One of the four was wounded.
Asked if the attacks had been aimed at buildings, crowded areas and Mecca pilgrims, he said: "This is exactly what I mean. In Mecca there are only Muslims from inside and outside the kingdom. There no other people except Muslims."
"Certainly [they wanted to target] buildings, installations and people. All the seized weapons indicate such a plan."
Asked if those arrested were al-Qaeda members, he said: "Without a doubt they all belong to the same group and are using the same methods."
The clash came just over a week after US and British authorities warned of a threat of attacks on Western targets in the kingdom during Ramadan, which started last Monday, and urged their nationals to avoid travelling to the country.
Saudi Arabia has launched a crackdown on militants loyal to bin Laden, held responsible for the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on US cities in which 15 of the 19 suicide plane hijackers were Saudi nationals.