Saudi official: Most-wanted terrorist killed in police battle with suspected al-Qaida militants
DAMMAM, Saudi Arabia – Saudi security forces battled heavily armed suspected al-Qaida members holed up in a sea-front apartment building Monday, a day after two militants – one of them the kingdom’s No. 3 most-wanted terrorist – died in the fighting.Zaid Saad Zaid al-Samari, a 31-year-old Saudi, was killed Sunday in Dammam, a security official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to give information to the media. A police officer also was killed Sunday.Al-Samari was on a list of 36 most-wanted terrorists sought in relation to multiple terror attacks launched in this kingdom since May 2003.An unknown number of militants fled Sunday to a white two-story building near Dammam’s commercial district, which police surrounded on Monday as fierce gun battles continued for a second day.At least 30 anti-terrorism forces were wounded since Sunday, including several critically, according to Dammam Central Hospital,which treated the victims.Police unleashed heavy barrages of gunfire but held off launching a direct assault on the building in hopes the militants will surrender, officials said.Officers evacuated people from nearby buildings and blocked off streets leading into the area, including the city’s main shore promenade. “We are dealing with people who have a tendency to blow themselves up and it we know they have a significant number of weapons and explosives,” Saudi Interior Ministry spokesman Mansour al-Turki told the AP.The ministry said security forces are carrying out an operation “against a number of elements affiliated to the ‘deviant group,”‘ a term usually used in reference to al-Qaida’s branch in the kingdom.The clashes prompted U.S. authorities to close the American consulate in nearby Dhahran.The violence came as President Bush’s Homeland Security adviser, Frances Townsend, met top Saudi officials, including King Abdullah, in Riyadh. The deputy commander of the U.S. Central Command, Air Force Lt. Gen. Lance Smith, also met Saudi deputy defense minister, Prince Khalid Bin Sultan.Saudi and U.S. sources declined to provide details on the visits by the high-ranking American security officials.Since May 2003, Islamic militants have carried out numerous suicide bombings and kidnappings and regularly battled security forces. The attacks, which have tended to target Westerners and housing complexes were they live, have been blamed on al-Qaida and its allies.Al-Qaida wants to topple the Saudi royal family because of its close ties with the West, particularly the United States.Saudi leaders say they have gotten the upper hand against terror cells, killing or capturing all but one figure on a previous most-wanted list of 26 militants.Vail, Colorado
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