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After underwear plot, Saudi officials cite headway against AQAP

Saudi officials refused to discuss their involvement in disrupting the latest underwear bomb plot from Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), but say they are making gains against the group.

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Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), based in Yemen, remains a major threat but drone strikes are making significant headway against the franchise, say Saudi interior ministry officials, who are working to cut off Saudi funding of the group and prevent the recruitment of Saudi operatives.

Speaking to a visiting group of US journalists in Riyadh, the officials underscored the importance of US-Saudi cooperation in fighting terrorism but refused to confirm or deny reports that Saudi intelligence was involved in foiling the latest underwear bomb plot by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).

“This information [about who was responsible] going out at this particular time … doesn’t serve anyone,” said Lt. Col. Sultan Mohammed of the ministry’s counterterrorism department, who has been tracking Islamist militants since the late 1990s.

Since 9/11 and a wave of domestic terrorist attacks in the following years, the Saudi government has taken strong measures to shut down jihadis and their ideology in the country. They have arrested more than 11,000 suspected militants over the past decade, about half of whom were released while the rest are being tried in a series of cases now moving through Saudi courts. The Ministry of Interior has also instituted a broad program to prevent the spread of jihadi ideology, which includes everything from requiring licenses for religious sermons to the promotion of books and leaflets that counter militant ideology to a generously funded rehabilitation center originally started for ex-Guantánamo detainees.

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