A Qatari man was among more than two dozen people sentenced to jail time by a Saudi court this week for plotting an attack on members of the US armed forces based here and in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia’s state news agency has said.
Qatar is home to the largest US Air Force base in the Middle East.
Late on Tuesday, it said 13 individuals – the Qatari, an Afghani and 11 Saudis – had been given sentences ranging from 18 months to 30 years in prison for crimes that included “joining an extremist group,” the name of which was not specified.
Reuters reported that the Qatari is accused of being the leader of the group, and was handed a 30-year sentence, after which he will be deported to Doha.
On Wednesday, the news agency said a further 14 defendants were ordered imprisoned for terms ranging from six months to 23 years, but made no mention of nationalities.
Both groups of defendants were said to be among 41 individuals who were “working together to form a terror cell in Qatar with the aim of attacking the Kuwait-and-Qatar-based U.S. forces and other grave crimes,” Saudi Arabia said.
No details were provided on when the individuals were arrested or the specific nature of their plans. A spokesperson for Qatar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs declined to comment to Doha News.
However, news agency AFP reported that the men intended to attack American forces in Qatar with hand grenades, rockets and other weapons. Additionally, it said the organization planned to send an individual to Iraq to learn how to make vehicle bombs that could target foreign soldiers.
The personnel and equipment stationed at the US Air Force base in Qatar play a key role in the western country’s operations throughout the region.
Military personnel stationed at Qatar’s Al Udeid Air Base reportedly coordinated some four dozen fighter and bomber missions over Afghanistan daily as late as December 2013, as well as controlling US drone flying over Afghanistan and Iraq.
In 2013, the US Air Force bolstered security at the military facility by erecting hundreds of 16-foot blast walls around the base.
In recent months, Saudi Arabia has rounded up and convicted dozens of individuals within its territory that it said were plotting violent attacks inside and outside the country.
After several Gulf states, including Qatar, joined a US-led aerial bombing campaign against ISIL targets in Syria, the US State Department warned that the organization and its sympathizers may launch reprisal attacks against its coalition partners.
AFP reported late last month that Jabhat Al Nusra, an armed group fighting in Syria, had threatened to launch retaliatory attacks against those countries that participated in airstrikes against ISIL.
Citing a video published online, AFP quoted a spokesperson for the group as saying the states involved in the mission had “committed a horrible act that is going to put them on the list of jihadist targets throughout the world.”