Saudi police say attacks thwarted in mostly Shiite east

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Saudi Arabia’s security forces said Wednesday they have thwarted two terrorist attacks in the predominantly Shiite Eastern Province and that at least one of the bombings was being planned by Islamic State recruits.

The most recent incident of the two took place on Tuesday, when police became suspicious of a Pakistani man who turned out to be carrying a bomb inside a sports bag. Police said the man, who is a resident in the kingdom, was planning to attack worshippers inside a mosque in the governorate of Qatif during sunset prayers.

The Interior Ministry said in a statement that police fired on the suspect during the encounter and that he died while being transported to the hospital, without providing further details.

In July, Saudi Arabia identified a Pakistani man as being behind a suicide bombing outside the U.S. Consulate in the western city of Jiddah. Police later arrested 12 Pakistanis and seven Saudis in connection with that attack and two others that took place in Qatif and Medina.

The Interior Ministry also said Wednesday that during a routine search Aug. 5 at a checkpoint in the eastern city of Dammam, police found two men in possession of a firearm and a suicide vest containing more than 15 pounds (7 kilograms) of explosives. The arrested men were identified as Abdullah al-Ghonaimy, a 27-year-old Saudi, and Hussein Mohammed, a 24-year-old Syrian.

The ministry said the two were recruited by the Islamic State group to carry out a suicide attack against a restaurant that evening. Further investigations led to the arrest of two other Syrians, the ministry said.

IS has targeted and killed dozens of the kingdom’s minority Shiites and security forces in recent years.