Shootout in Saudi Leaves Eight Dead

Published July 28, 2003

| Associated Press

Six suspected militants were killed Monday in firefight with Saudi police, who raided a farm where they were hiding out. Two police also were killed.

The shootout, which came amid an anti-terror crackdown in the kingdom, took place in al-Qassim, 220 miles north of the capital, Riyadh, state-run TV quoted a Ministry of Interior statement as saying.

The firefight came after the suspects, armed with guns and hand grenades, refused an order to surrender by police surrounding the farm, the statement said.

One militant and eight police were injured, and four people were arrested for harboring the suspects.

Saudi Arabia has launched a series of terror raids after May 12 suicide bombings in Riyadh killed 25 people and nine attackers.

The raids also followed repeated calls from the U.S. government for Saudi Arabia to do more to curb Islamic militancy after Sept. 11. Of the 19 hijackers in the attack, 11 were Saudi.

One raid, announced last week, yielded the arrests of 16 suspects linked to Al Qaeda -- the terror network blamed for the Riyadh bombings and the Sept. 11 attacks -- and the seizure of a buried arsenal that included 20 tons of bomb-making chemicals, detonators, rocket-propelled grenades and rifles.

A U.S. Congress report on Sept. 11 released last week accused Saudi Arabia of not doing enough to counter terrorism.

The unclassified version of the report also said that one suspected organizer still at large paid many of the expenses of two Sept. 11 hijackers and "had access to seemingly unlimited funding from Saudi Arabia." It did not say if Saudi government funds were involved.

Saudi officials have rejected those conclusions.

"We are confident about ourselves and it is just a matter of mere talk," Defense Minister Prince Sultan was quoted by the official Saudi Press Agency as saying Sunday night. "The American administration under the leadership of Bush has declared officially that the kingdom is not a party in these issues."

Usama bin Laden, head of the Al Qaeda terrorist network, was born in Saudi Arabia to a prominent family. He turned against the Saudi government after it allowed the United States to station troops and equipment here during the 1991 Gulf War. The Saudi government revoked his citizenship.

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