Saudi Arabia claimed yesterday that it had foiled a major terrorist attack in the kingdom and had arrested 98 alleged members of al-Qaeda in raids in and around the capital, Riyadh. The Interior Ministry said that those arrested comprised 47 Saudi nationals and 51 foreigners. Most of the foreigners were from Yemen, sources said. The arrests are the latest in a series of strikes against al-Qaeda by Saudi security forces over recent months. In August last year troops arrested 44 members of the group in raids across the capital. A large cache of weapons was seized, including machineguns and electronic detonators. Some had undergone training within the kingdom while others had visited camps in Yemen. The subsequent investigation led to the discovery of another cache of weapons and ammunition in a house 93 miles (150km) north of Riyadh. About 280 Kalashnikov assault rifles were seized, along with more than 40,000 rounds of ammunition. Despite these successes, the terrorist threat within Saudi Arabia remains high, with the security services on full alert. Hundreds of suspects have been rounded up in the past year. The kingdom is stepping up efforts to seal off its porous southeastern border with Yemen but the mountainous terrain is notoriously difficult to patrol, making it easy for militants to slip in and out of the kingdom. Smuggling of guns, drugs and contraband is rife. Officials in the Jazan border province said last year that weapons were seized on an almost hourly basis. The Yemeni Government has been engaged in its own campaign against al-Qaeda over recent months and it is thought that this may have driven Islamists back into Saudi Arabia. Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula was formed by Saudi jihadis who were forced out of Afghanistan by the US and British-led invasion in 2001. The group came to prominence in 2003 and 2004 when it carried out a string of lethal attacks on compounds housing Westerners in Riyadh and Al-Khobar. Almost 200 people were killed during the campaign, prompting a crackdown by the Saudi Government. Al-Qaeda has since regrouped in Yemen behind the jihadist preacher Anwar al-Awlaki. With the Yemeni Government in Sanaa grappling with an uprising by Shia Houthi rebels in the north of the country and a growing separatist movement in the south, the impoverished country has provided the perfect territory for al-Qaeda to reopen its training camps. The Saudi Interior Minister, Prince Nayef bin Abdul-Aziz, said in October last year that the kingdom had indicted 991 al-Qaeda suspects for carrying out attacks since 2003. Most were Saudi nationals. They have received jail terms of up to 30 years, with one sentenced to death.(The Times)