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Terror Suspect Dies In Saudi Custody

One of Saudi Arabia's most wanted militants has died in custody after being wounded in a gunbattle in which he killed five policemen, the Interior Ministry said Wednesday.

Mohammed Abdel-Rahman Mohammed al-Suwailmi, who was No. 7 on the list of the kingdom's 15 most wanted suspects, died late Tuesday, bringing to nine the number of people on the list who have been captured or killed.

Police are looking for a second man involved in the gunbattles that led to al-Suwailmi's capture, the ministry statement said.

Tuesday's violence began when al-Suwailmi fatally shot two policemen from a car at a police patrol outside the city of Buraydah, northwest of Riyadh, the ministry said.

He then sped 12 miles southwest and sprayed gunfire at a security checkpoint near the town of Al-Midhnab, killing three more officers, the agency said.

Police pursued the car and opened fire, wounding the gunman and capturing him in the town, 180 miles northwest of the capital Riyadh. The ministry later confirmed the gunman's identity as al-Suwailmi.

Police found several grenades and other weapons in the car after al-Suwailmi was captured, the ministry said.

Al-Suwailmi, 23, was involved in recruitment and propaganda for Islamic militant groups, the Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya satellite television reported. It was not immediately clear whether he was directly linked with any specific attacks.

Saudi officials reported in September that police killed al-Suwailmi along with four other militants in a gunbattle in the eastern city of Dammam. But al-Suwailmi soon afterward released an audiotape on the Internet saying he was still alive, and Saudi authorities backed off the claims.

The kingdom is waging a campaign against Islamic militants who have staged numerous terror attacks since May 2003, several of them targeting Westerners holding important positions in the oil industry in a bid to cripple the economy.

From an initial most wanted list of 26 militants issued in December 2003, all but one have been killed or captured. Those on the newer list are mainly younger, middle-level militants.

King Abdullah, who ascended the throne in early August after the death of his half brother, Fahd, has vowed to push ahead with the crackdown.

Weeks after Abdullah's ascent to the throne, police carried out raids in Riyadh and the holy city of Mecca, killing six militants, including Al-Qaeda's leader in Saudi Arabia, Saleh Mohammed al-Aoofi, who was involved in the June 2004 kidnapping and beheading of the U.S. engineer Paul M. Johnson Jr.

Al-Qaeda seeks to topple the Saudi royal family because of its close ties with the West, particularly the United States.

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