RIYADH, Saudi Arabia – One of Saudi Arabia's most wanted terror suspects killed five policemen in drive-by shootings Tuesday before security forces wounded and captured him, the Interior Ministry said.
The capture of Mohammed Abdel-Rahman Mohammed al-Suwailmi was the latest in a series of successes by Saudi security forces in their nearly three-year crackdown on Al Qaeda and other Islamic militant groups in the kingdom.
Police have now killed or captured eight of the top 15 suspected militants believed to still be in the country who were on a list of most wanted terrorists issued in June. Some 21 others on the list are believed to be outside Saudi Arabia.
Al-Suwailmi opened fire from his car on a police patrol outside the city of Buraydah on Tuesday, killing two policemen, 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.
Several grenades were found in the car when al-Suwailmi's car when he was captured, the Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya satellite television station reported.
Al-Suwailmi, 23, was involved in recruitment and propaganda for Islamic militant groups, Al-Arabiya said. 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.