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Five arrested in Saudi chatroom swoop

Interior Ministry said group were seized for spreading misleading propaganda on internet.

Saudi Arabia said on Wednesday it had arrested five regular users of Islamist chatrooms who had lured young militant sympathisers to travel abroad.

A statement by the Interior Ministry carried by state media said three Saudis and two foreign residents were seized for "spreading misleading propaganda on the internet".

"They were playing with young people's religious sentiments and goading them to visit troubled zones and facilitating this," it said.

It said the men posted comments on websites using 28 different usernames. Many of them are well-known users who often appear in internet chatrooms used by Islamists.

Hundreds of Saudis have gone to Iraq since 2003 to fight with al Qaeda against the US-backed Iraqi government and some Saudis fought with Sunni militants in north Lebanon last year.

Saudi Arabia, the world's largest oil exporter, battled Islamist militants who launched a violent campaign to destabilise the US-allied monarchy in 2003.

The violence has subsided since 2006 after the death of nearly 200 people, including foreign residents, security forces and militants. But the government has arrested hundreds of suspects over the past year.

The Interior Ministry runs an extensive programme of Internet monitoring.