Saudi experts and scholars said the kingdom's security forces dealt a serious blow to extremists when they foiled terrorist plots that targeted Riyadh and Jeddah.
Saudi authorities on Sunday (August 26th) announced that they thwarted terrorist plans to attack security forces and public installations following the arrest of eight suspected members of two cells affiliated with al-Qaeda in the two cities.
Maj. Gen. Mansour al-Turki, security spokesperson for the Interior Ministry, said the plans were at an advanced stage. For several months security officials monitored the activities of suspicious individuals who were in contact with al-Qaeda outside of the kingdom, he said.
"It became clear from tracking these [individuals] that they formed a terrorist cell in Riyadh and sought to promote deviant takfiri thought and recruit members to carry out criminal attacks against security personnel, residents and public installations," al-Turki said.
Security forces arrested the leader of the Riyadh cell, a Saudi national, and his confession yielded detailed information about the cell's plans and led to the arrest of six cell members, all Yemenis, according to al-Turki.
He said security forces also uncovered another cell linked to the Riyadh group in Jeddah and arrested one cell member - a Saudi - there.
"The successive painful strikes dealt by security services to extremists have crippled their mobility, as well as their planning and implementation capabilities," said Ahmed al-Mulaifi, a researcher specialising in terrorism and Islamist groups.
"The exposure of the two cells in Jeddah and Riyadh confirms that the initiative is in the hands of security forces," he said. "The blows dealt recently to al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in Yemen broke the terrorists' back and forced them to flee to mountain gorges."
Individuals who advocate deviant ideology seek to draw attention to themselves by carrying out desperate attacks, similar to those the detainees were planning in Jeddah and Riyadh, al-Mulaifi said.
He said Saudi Arabia has tightened the noose around extremists and prevented them from establishing a foothold in the kingdom.
He also called for concerted educational, social and security efforts to strengthen the community against terrorism and its adherents.
"Intelligence co-ordination and information exchange between neighbouring countries as well as within the Arab security community helped consolidate preventive security efforts that attack terrorists in their hideouts and deprive them of the opportunity to take the initiative," al-Mulaifi said.
Saudi preacher Sheikh Ali al-Qarni, said, "Terrorism is on its way to final eradication from this country thanks to the great efforts made by the various security agencies and their units in different locations."
Al-Qarni, who participates in the country's munasaha programme, said scholars, teachers and opinion leaders have helped educate the community, promote a culture of dialogue and enlighten people about the dangers of terrorism.
"The deviant group will see nothing in Saudi Arabia but decisive measures," al-Qarni said. "Just as it failed to sow its deviant ideology in the soil of this country, it will fail to undermine [Saudi Arabia's] security and stability now that the truth of [this group's] evil intentions has been revealed to all."
He said the munasaha counselling programmes "help those who went down that slippery path and have proven their effectiveness in guiding many misguided youth back to the right path by showing them through dialogue the groups' true intentions, which are outlawed under sharia law".
Columnist Ahmed al-Qasim said similar preventive programmes must be strengthened to complement efforts made by security personnel to protect the kingdom against terrorism.
"The responsibility falls on everyone to raise awareness about the dangers of deviant thought," he said, noting that the arrest of the Jeddah and Riyadh cell members is among a long list of Saudi security accomplishments.
Al-Qasim urged that additional efforts be made to "keep track of the nests of extremists on the internet, where they try to spread their false ideas and lure naive individuals to their camp".
"Fighting this phenomenon is a collective responsibility […] because security in its fullest sense includes and affects everyone," al-Qasim said.