Saudi police kill al-Qaida suspects
- Saudi police kill al-Qaida suspects
Shootout follows raid that nets weapons, grenades
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia, Nov. 3 Police killed two suspected al-Qaida
militants during a shootout at their fortified hide-out in the holy
city of Mecca on Monday and seized a large cache of weapons, a Saudi
Interior Ministry official said.
The Official said the weapons found and the method the
militants used in the confrontation indicate they are sympathizers of
Osama bin Laden's terrorist network.
Police foiled a terrorist operation "that did not respect the
sanctity of holy places and the month of Ramadan" the holy month of
fasting that began days ago, the official said.
As a result, the official said, Saudi police will increase
security in Mecca, particularly during the last 10 days of Ramadan,
when some 2 million Muslims are expected to perform the "omra," or
minor pilgrimage, to the city the birthplace of Islam's seventh-
The legitimacy of Saudi rulers rests partly on their
custodianship of Mecca, which is off-limits to non-Muslims. A strike
on Mecca could be seen as a strike on the regime.
The shootout started at 8 a.m. after police surrounded two
buildings that the militants had fortified with sandbags in Mecca's
al-Share'a neighborhood, the official said. Police had been
monitoring the premises for the previous 24 hours.
SOME ESCAPE IN CAR
"The terrorists began shooting heavily at security forces,
using automatic rifles and hand grenades," the official said.
While a security forces helicopter hovered, police fired back
at the militants as they tried to flee in two cars, hitting one of
the vehicles and killing two of its occupants.
A cache of weapons and bombs were found inside the car, the
Inside the buildings, security seized Kalashnikov rifles, hand
grenades, rocket-propelled grenades and material to make explosives.
Passports, identification cards and thousands of flyers bearing the
picture of bin Laden, a Saudi exile, were also found.
Police are searching for the militants who escaped, the
official said. It was not clear how many were at large.
The Interior Ministry official said Monday's raid is in line
with a warning by Crown Prince Abdullah to strike the militants and
their sympathizers with an iron fist.
"What happened is a warning to all those (militants) and to
those who sympathize with them that the government is determined to
track them down," the ministry official said.
CRACKDOWN AFTER BOMBING
The government has been cracking down on Islamic militants
since the May 12 suicide bombings at foreign housing complexes in
Riyadh killed 26 bystanders. Nine attackers also died.
On June 14, a raid on a terror cell plotting attacks in Mecca
killed five al-Qaida militants and two security agents. Police also
found six dozen bombs and other weapons in the militants' hide-out.
Saudis had reacted angrily to the threats against Mecca the
holiest place in Islam, site of the annual pilgrimage that every able-
bodied Muslim is required to perform at least once.
More than 200 suspects have been arrested and more than a
dozen killed in a series of high-profile police raids since the
The Riyadh bombings also sparked unprecedented public
discussion of the role of religion in Saudi society, with some daring
to argue that the strict form of Islam preached in the kingdom
fostered intolerance and extremism.
Saudi Arabia has been under pressure to crush networks that
include al-Qaida, the terror group blamed for the Sept. 11 attacks;
15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudis.
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