'Militant' shot dead in clash with police on Riyadh highway

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The Independent Online

A suspected Muslim militant and a Saudi policeman were killed and four policemen wounded in a shoot-out on a Riyadh highway yesterday, a government spokesman said.

The clash began in the middle of the afternoon on a highway connecting several affluent suburbs in the east of the Saudi capital, a police spokesman said. Police chased three more militants who fled the scene in a Chevrolet sedan car, he added.

In a statement published by the official Saudi Press Agency, an Interior Ministry official said that the clash started after members of a security patrol spotted a suspicious car carrying two wanted militants in Riyadh's Fayh'a suburb.

The men shot at the police officers and then sped off, stopping in front of a nearby house where more militants began firing various weapons at the security forces.

During the clash, one of the suspected militants fired a rocket-propelled grenade at the police, but it was unclear whether that attack was responsible for the injuries sustained by police officers, security officials said.

Smoke rose from the area of the clash, and traffic on the highway was bought to a standstill as police cordoned off the route and the suburbs surrounding it in an attempt to trap the gunmen. The Interior Ministry statement said that police continued to surround the neighbourhood late yesterday.

It is not clear for what the militants were wanted, nor whether they were on a list of 26 most-wanted terrorists which was released by Saudi authorities in December following the bombings in Riyadh last year. Three people included on the list have since been killed and one has surrendered.

Yesterday's clash was the second in Riyadh in two weeks. One militant was killed and his companion wounded during another incident last week.

Saudi Arabia is currently battling a surge in militant violence which American officials say is linked to Saudi-born Osama bin Laden's al-Qa'ida network.