Saudi police kill six terror suspects in rural hideout

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Saudi Arabia's crackdown on terrorism moved to the kingdom's religious heartland yesterday when six suspected militants were killed in a gun battle and at least four others were arrested for providing them with shelter at a remote farm north of the capital, Riyadh.

Two security officers were killed in the raid in the Qasim region, the Interior Ministry said, and seven policemen were injured. Last night, a second raid was reported to be under way on another hideout.

The operation started on Sunday night after a tip-off that one of 19 militants wanted since 6 May had been given refuge on a farm, a Saudi security source told The Independent. The 19 fugitives had escaped after their hideout in Riyadh was raided.

It took three days to locate the new hideout, the source added. Police encountered four men, three women and six children on the farm, who denied they were hiding anyone. "Eventually it was discovered that a gang was inside the farmhouse and they decided to fight to the death with the weapons they had," the source said.

Qasim is among the regions where 16 people linked to al-Qa'ida were arrested last week, the Interior Ministry said. Security forces found arms and 200 tons of bomb-making equipment. A number of militants escaped but it is not clear if those killed yesterday were part of the same cell.

Saudi Arabia intensified its anti-terrorism operations after suicide attacks on three Western compounds in Riyadh in May, which killed 26 residents.