, RIYADH, August 9, 2013 (AFP) – Saudi Arabia has arrested two suspected members of Al-Qaeda who may have been plotting against Western embassies in the Middle East, the interior ministry said.
But while the focus of a region-wide alert remains on Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the United States late Thursday pulled all non-emergency staff from its Lahore consulate in Pakistan.
The two men who were arrested, a Yemeni and a Chadian national, had contacts with AQAP, the terror network’s Yemeni offshoot, state news agency SPA quoted ministry spokesman General Mansour al-Turki as saying on Thursday.
The Chadian suspect had been expelled from Saudi Arabia but returned with a passport issued by another country, Turki added.
“The two suspects may have been implicated in the threats against Western embassies in the region,” he said.
Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula which has been at the heart of the security alert that has shut a number of US and Western missions in the Middle East, Asia and Africa is seen by Washington as the most active branch of the jihadist network.
It was formed in January 2009 as a merger of the Yemeni and Saudi branches of Al-Qaeda and is led by Nasser al-Wuhayshi.
According to a report in the Wall Street Journal citing an anonymous US official, Wuhayshi masterminded the latest plot.
Previous reports have said that he was ordered to go on the offensive by Al-Qaeda’s overall leader, the late Osama Bin Laden’s former number two Ayman al-Zawahiri.
But the official who briefed the Journal said that an intercepted communication had shown that Zawahiri merely approved an operation that had been drawn up in Yemen.
“Zawahiri’s giving his blessing for a plot is very different from ordering that plot or being able to launch a 9/11-style attack,” the official said, according to the report.