RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) — Militants linked to the Islamic State group were behind a surprise attack this month that killed seven people in Saudi Arabia's eastern region, the kingdom's Interior Ministry said Monday.
Interior Minister spokesman Mansour al-Turki said in a statement carried by the official Saudi Press Agency that an investigation found that a 77-person terrorist cell helped with financing, planning and carrying out the Nov. 3 attack. He said some members of the cell had been in touch with Islamic State militants and received orders from abroad.
Thirteen people were wounded in the attack, which saw gunmen shoot the victims with pistols and machine guns inside a commemoration hall as worshippers marked a major Shiite day of remembrance known as Ashoura.
Not long after the attack, an audio recording emerged of Islamic State group leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi allegedly calling on his supporters to launch attacks inside Saudi Arabia. The kingdom is part of the U.S.-led coalition conducting airstrikes against the al-Qaida breakaway group in Iraq and Syria.
The Interior Ministry spokesman said the gunmen killed a man and stole his car to use in the attack, which took place in the village of al-Dalwah in Saudi's eastern al-Ahsa region. Saudi Arabia's eastern region is a major oil-producing area and where many of country's minority Shiites reside.
Al-Turki said security forces killed three suspects, two of them Saudi and the third a Qatari. He said a security officer was killed during one of the raids and that a fourth Saudi suspect was seriously wounded. He said police arrested the other 73 suspects, which include a Syrian, a Jordanian and a Turkish national.
The Interior Ministry spokesman said that 32 of those arrested previously served prison sentences, including three for having links to al-Qaida. Around a decade ago, al-Qaida militants launched a deadly wave of attacks inside the kingdom with the aim of the toppling the Western-allied monarchy.