RIYADH, Saudi Arabia – Saudi police arrested 172 Islamic militants who were on the verge of carrying out a series of terror attacks on oil facilities, military zones and public figures, the Interior Ministry said Friday. A spokesman said all that remained in the plot "was to set the zero hour."
An Interior ministry statement said police seized weapons and more than 20 million riyals ($5.33 million) in cash, from seven armed cells.
"Some had been training on the use of weapons, and some were sent to other countries to study aviation in preparation to use them to carry out terrorist operations inside the kingdom," the statement said.
The officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, noted that the plot was very similar to Sept. 11, by having militants train as pilots to use planes in the attacks and hitting several targets simultaneously.
"They had reached an advance stage of readiness and what remained only was to set the zero hour for their attacks," Interior Ministry spokesman Brig. Mansour al-Turki told the Associated Press in a phone call. "They had the personnel, the money, the arms. Almost all the elements for terror attacks were complete."
Al-Turki told the privately owned Al-Arabiya TV channel that the militants included non-Saudis.
The militants also planned to storm Saudi prisons to free the inmates, the statement said.
"Certainly anytime the Saudis or anyone else takes action against those involed in terrorism it's a good thing. It's something that makes the world safer and makes America safer," Tom Casey, a State Department spokesman, said in Washington.
The Saudi statement said some of the military targets were outside the kingdom. Al-Turki said the arrests occurred "at various and successive times" but did not elaborate.
The Saudi state TV channel Al-Ekhbariah broadcast footage of large weapons cache discovered buried in the desert. The arms included bricks of plastic explosives, ammunition cartridges, handguns and rifles wrapped in plastic sheeting.
The ministry referred to the militants only as a "deviant group" — the Saudi term for Islamic terrorist.
Al-Ekhbariah showed investigators breaking tiled floors with hammers to uncover pipes that contained weapons. In one scene, an official upends a plastic pipe and bullets and little packets of plastic explosives spill out.
The channel also showed investigators digging up plastic sacks in the desert.
Bin Laden has called for attacks on the kingdom's oil facilities as a means of crippling both the kingdom's economy and the hurting the West, which he accuses of paying too little for Arab oil.
FOX News' Catherine Herridge contributed to this report.