Saudi forces 'kill two Al-Qa'ida suspects'

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The Independent Online

Two Al-Qa'ida militants suspected of involvement in the weekend storming of an oil company compound in the Gulf coast city of Khobar, have been killed by Saudi security forces, the desert kingdom claimed yesterday.

Two Al-Qa'ida militants suspected of involvement in the weekend storming of an oil company compound in the Gulf coast city of Khobar, have been killed by Saudi security forces, the desert kingdom claimed yesterday.

The men were tracked down to a remote, mountainous area near Mecca, 700 miles from the scene of the carnage, and killed after they threw grenades and opened fire on security forces, an Interior Ministry statement said.

One man was disguised as a woman, and the other was identified by one security official, speaking off the record, as Abdul Rahman Mohammed Yazji, number 25 of Saudi Arabia's 26 most-wanted militants.

"None of the security forces were wounded," the statement said. "The security forces' pursuit after the Khobar criminal act led us to these militants."

It was impossible to verify the Saudi claims, which were played up on television with dramatic images of helicopters and two bodies covered in bloodstained white sheets carried on stretchers. It was also unclear whether the dead were believed to have been among the three attackers who escaped the Khobar compound after a 25-hour siege.

The incident, and its coverage, underscored the increasing jitteriness in a country expecting further attacks on its primary industry, oil, as al-Qa'ida furthers its campaign of overthrowing a royal family it regards as apostates steering from the true path of Islam.

Also yesterday, gunmen armed with automatic weapons took potshots at two vehicles carrying US military personnel along a highway outside the capital, Riyadh. The convoy immediately returned to a nearby Saudi National Guard compound in Iskan Village where a US training unit is based.

The US Embassy said one driver was slightly injured, but did not specify whether he had been shot.

The Riyadh chief of police said in a statement that the injured man was Saudi, but gave no further details.

Many expatriates in the kingdom are considering sending their dependants out of the country. Residents at the compound in Khobar, where 22 people were killed, including nine hostages, have urged their companies and the Saudi government to increase their security. Last month, the US State Department urged the 35,000 US citizens in Saudi Arabia to leave.

Paul Raven, a British manager from Bath, Somerset, who has spent 10 years in Saudi Arabia and supervises supermarkets in residential compounds, told BBC News Online: "Expats are getting scared. People feel very vulnerable and apprehensive and I think we will now see a lot more people go." Mr Raven's wife has left Khobar because of the security situation. "I now have to consider leaving," he added.

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