The ministry did not give the nationalities of those arrested but stressed that the masterminds lived abroad and were recruiting foreigners - among them Muslim pilgrims from around the Islamic world - to carry out attacks.
"Chiefs of the sedition abroad have engaged in recruiting nationals in Asian and African countries to carry out operations in Saudi Arabia, taking advantage of the facilities granted to the Muslim faithful to come to Mecca for the annual pilgrimage or to do the omra," or minor pilgrimage, the official said.
"The cells that have been broken up which were run from abroad were primarily targeting economic targets in the country," which is the world's second-largest oil producer and its largest exporter.
A message purportedly sent to the cell's chief by Al-Qaeda number two Ayman al-Zawahiri called for militants to collect money and promised to send jihadists (holy warriors) from "
Without giving details, the official said the cell had begun planning an attack on "an oil site and a security target with car bombs."
The kingdom has been battling suspected Al-Qaeda militants since they launched a wave of shootings and bombings, many targeting Westerners, in May 2003.
With the current oil problems facing the world, I just cannot imagine if these people were successful in carrying out the threats. The oil industry will come to a stand still and that’s the end of you and me. Recession will set in and most of us will be out of jobs. So pray hard my friends, that none of this will happen and hope that we will not have to endure hardship just because a few groups of people think otherwise…..cheers
Extract from can/afp/ms