DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Six Saudi security agents seeking militants were killed in a hail of gunfire in the Saudi capital of Riyadh, according to Saudi officials and a statement circulated in the name of Al Qaeda (search) on Friday.
But the two versions differed after that, including on how the deaths occurred. The Saudi Interior Ministry indicated that they were killed in an ambush Thursday at the home of terror suspect Khaled al-Juwaiser al-Farraj (search), while the statement attributed to Al Qaeda said they died in an exchange of gunfire there.
The Al Qaeda statement, a copy of which was sent to The Associated Press Friday, said al-Farraj was detained and his father was critically wounded. The Saudi government said the father died.
The Al Qaeda statement did not explicitly identify the militants as Al Qaeda, but referred to them as "mujahedeen," or Islamic holy warriors.
According to the Interior Ministry, al-Farraj was detained Thursday morning before any shooting occurred. Investigators then conducted a routine search of his apartment and the violence erupted.
"Bullets were fired in their (agents') direction through the gate of the house" that killed six officials and al-Farraj's father, a ministry statement said.
Riyadh (search) governor Prince Salman said earlier that the government forces "did not fire a single bullet ... because they did not expect to encounter terrorists."
The ministry also said that seven people linked to the suspected group were arrested, but it wasn't clear if those arrests came at the scene of the violence or elsewhere. The purported Al Qaeda statement said all the militants escaped except al-Farraj.
The Al Qaeda statement, which was dated Thursday, vowed to continue fighting the Saudi government and its Western supporters, swearing to "take revenge on anyone who fights the faith and its people, or stands as a line of defense for the Crusader forces."
"Crusader forces" is a term often used by Al Qaeda leader Usama bin Laden and his militant Muslim supporters to refer to the United States or to Western powers in general.
In recent months, Saudi security forces have arrested scores of terror suspects and seized large caches of weapons, ammunition and bomb-making material, spurred in part by suicide bombers' attacks on housing compounds inhabited by foreigners last May and November. Both U.S. and Saudi officials blamed those attacks on Al Qaeda.
The militants' statement, under a headline of "The Voice of Jihad" and signed "The Al Qaeda Organization in the Arabian Peninsula," was relayed to news organizations by the Saudi Institute, a dissident Saudi group based in Washington.
There was no other immediate verification of the document's authenticity, but it resembled the style of previous Al Qaeda statements seen by AP. A line of fine print at the top said "The voice of the mujahedeen in the Arab Peninsula," a phrase previously used by Al Qaeda.
"The mujahedeen will continue on the path and force the infidels out of the Arabian peninsula," the statement said.
The Saudi Institute, which monitors human rights in the kingdom and advocates democratic reforms, said it was alerted to the statement by an unidentified colleague in Riyadh.
"I believe the statement is authentic. It resembles previous Al Qaeda statements in form and language," said Ali al-Ahmed, the institute's director.
Bin Laden, who is thought to be in hiding along the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan, used to communicate mostly via videotapes.
Increasingly, however, statements attributed to Al Qaeda and its network of supporters have surfaced on Islamic Web sites — sometimes for very short periods in an apparent effort to avoid being traced — or distributed via e-mail.