Suspected militants linked to Islamic State were stopped just short of attacking Saudi royals during King Salman’s recent trip to Malaysia, the Wall Street Journal reports, citing local authorities.
It was the second high-profile plot after a hit squad allegedly led by North Koreans recently staged a brazen killing at the main airport.
“We got them in the nick of time,” Inspector General of Police Khalid Abu Bakar said. Three teams of militants had planned attacks on the Saudis, he said, but he declined to give details of their alleged plans. One group comprised four Yemenis, another an Indonesian and a Malaysian, and a third a lone man from an unspecified East Asian nation.
Malaysia, without specifying the targets, said the plotters were arrested between Feb. 21 and 26. Police said two of the men were directed by Muhammad Wanndy Mohamed Jedi, a Malaysian who joined Islamic State in Syria in 2015, in preparing a car bomb.
The Indonesian arrested had previously been deported to Turkey after trying to enter Syria, police said.
Police said the East Asian suspect, believed to have been living in Malaysia on a student visa since 2011, had suspected links to a regional terrorist group that uses Malaysia as a transit point and safe haven, according to the Journal.
The Saudi king has been leading an entourage of up to 1,500 people on a month-long tour of Asia to strengthen ties with a region the kingdom sees as an increasingly valuable economic partner and as a hedge against an unpredictable US government.
Malaysia was the first stop. The monarch traveled on to Indonesia and now is on a week-long holiday on the resort island of Bali before heading to Japan, China and elsewhere.
A spokesman for Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs didn’t respond to a request for comment on Tuesday.
Malaysia recently was the scene of terrorism of a different sort. On Feb. 13, a hit team killed Kim Jong Nam, the estranged half brother of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, by smearing his face with a lethal VX nerve agent while he was waited in a crowded airport departures hall.
Police believe four North Korean suspects in the murder plot escaped to Pyongyang, while three others are said to be in hiding at the North Korean Embassy.
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