Saudi security authorities have arrested three men in connection with an explosion that targeted a senior security official, a newspaper reported Wednesday.
The Okaz daily, quoting an unidentified security official, said the suspects were picked up shortly after Monday’s attack. The car was empty when it exploded in Riyadh’s eastern Al-Salaam district and nobody was hurt by the blast.
Police stopped a white Toyota Tercel after a witness described a similar car leaving the scene of the explosion soon after it took place, the paper said.
The car is believed to be rented, security sources told Okaz. The sources could not confirm whether the men were involved in the incident.
A Western diplomat said the attack was against a senior member of the Interior Ministry’s Mabahith branch, the Saudi equivalent of the FBI.
Okaz quoted the official as saying the targeting of police officers “will not stop security from working to root out terror cells.”
He said the incident “carried the fingerprints of extremist thought,” the newspaper said.
Interior Ministry officials could not be reached for comment Wednesday about the incident or the newspaper report, but police have told The Associated Press that a car sped by the official’s parked vehicle and a passenger tossed something toward it, causing an explosion.
Islamic extremists have detonated four car bombs in Riyadh this year, killing 52 people, including the assailants, and wounding more than 100 others. The attacks on May 12 and Nov. 8 targeted housing compounds for foreigners, and Saudi and U.S. officials have blamed Saudi exile Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida terror network.
Also Wednesday, Saudi intellectuals and Islamic scholars wrapped up a four-day forum on combating extremism. The closed-door forum in Mecca, the home of Islam’s holiest shrine, discussed fanaticism and extremism from religious, educational, political, economic and media viewpoints.
A member of the forum’s organizing committee told The Associated Press that the meeting drew up recommendations including more public participation in the kingdom’s political system, greater women’s rights, and freedom of the press. The forum had 60 participants, including 10 women.
Organized by the King Abdul Aziz Center for National Dialogue, the gathering was seen as a bid by the Saudi government to understand the causes of the recent terror attacks in the kingdom.
Saudi Arabia come under intense pressure since the Sept. 11 terror attacks on the United States, which were carried out by 19 plane hijackers — 15 of them Saudis.
A Western diplomat suggested Monday’s attack — and a similar strike on a top security officer earlier this month — appeared to be a change of tactic by Islamic militants, who usually target foreigners in Saudi Arabia. The new target appears to be senior members of the Saudi security services.
On Tuesday, terror suspect Mansour Mohammed Ahmed Faqih turned himself in to Saudi authorities. Faqih was 14th on an official list of 26 wanted terror suspects.
Faqih, 22, went into hiding shortly after his 18-year-old brother Hassan Faqih was arrested in connection with suicide attacks on May 12, according to biographical details published in the government-guided newspapers.
Both the United States and Britain have warned there could be further attacks.
On Sunday, the British government warned a terrorist attack could be in the final stages of preparation in Saudi Arabia. On Dec. 17, the U.S. State Department advised nonessential American diplomats and their families to leave the kingdom, and recommended that private U.S. citizens consider leaving as well.