Da Arab News del 05/04/2005
Originale su http://www.arabnews.com/?page=1&section=0&article=61602&d=...

7 Terrorists Shot Dead as Battle Rages

di Khaled Al-Awadh

AL-RASS — As Saudi security forces killed seven suspected terrorists in a fierce gunbattle that raged for the second successive day till late last night here, the Cabinet renewed its pledge to continue the Kingdom’s anti-terror campaign.

The leader of the Al-Qaeda cell in Saudi Arabia, Saleh Al-Aufi who was reported killed earlier, is holed up in a villa, an informed source said. Talib Saud Al-Talib, another most wanted terrorist on the list of 26, was also with Aufi.

The terrorists who were occupying three villas yesterday, had now moved to just one and were engaging the security forces in a tough battle.

The Council of Ministers, chaired by Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Fahd, saluted the security forces for their good work in dealing with the deviant group, a term used by the government for Al-Qaeda members and their sympathizers.

The Cabinet was commenting on the killing of seven Al-Qaeda terrorists in a marathon gunbattle with Saudi security forces.

“King Fahd reaffirmed Saudi Arabia’s resolve to root out terrorism and fight the deviant group,” Culture and Information Minister Iyad Madani told the Saudi Press Agency. “The king commended the security officers for the way they dealt with the situation causing no harm to civilians as well as themselves and for their efforts to eliminate the deviants with least number of civilian casualties,” Madani said.

Seven members of “the deviant group” were killed, and an eighth was critically wounded, in the clash in Al-Rass, some 320 kms northwest of Riyadh, the Interior Ministry said in a statement.

A number of security men were slightly wounded in the operation, the ministry said, adding that security forces were continuing to cleanse the scene of the clash, suggesting that the standoff with the militants was not over.

The terrorists appeared to be well armed as they used rocket-propelled grenades, hand grenades and machine guns against the security forces in the unprecedented fighting, according to sources.

The sources said the area was evacuated late in the night and electricity was cut off as the security forces were trying to capture the terrorists alive.

One source also pointed out that the presence of onlookers was making the job of the security forces difficult and according to an unconfirmed report one of the bystanders was killed in the cross-fire.

Dr. Hisham Naderah, director general of the Al-Rass General Hospital told Arab News that his hospital was using its full potential to treat the injured.

“The injured keep coming in at regular intervals. Some of them have left hospital after receiving treatment,” he added.

The gunbattle began when security forces deployed in the area early Sunday to track down a group of suspects holed up in a residential building and came under fire from automatic weapons, the ministry said.

The ministry did not identify any of the dead or the wounded suspect, who was arrested and taken to hospital, promising more details later. It was the first official account of the gunbattle, during which security forces laid siege to the militants holed up in the building.

Residents said security forces deployed in large numbers at the site as helicopters hovered overhead and gunfire and loud blasts were heard in the area. The clash started at around 8 a.m. on Sunday.

“The operation is continuing. The security forces have surrounded them. There is still gunfire from the besieged building,” Interior Ministry spokesman, Brig. Mansour Al-Turki said earlier.

Police had asked the suspects hiding inside a villa situated in the town’s Jawazat District, to surrender but they refused and started firing at security officers, Turki said.

Special security forces have closed all entry and exit points of Jawazat District as they continued their gunbattle with militants for the second day, Brig. Turki told Arab News. He said security forces have besieged the suspected terrorists.

All schools and shops in the area have been closed down in order to protect civilians from possible harm as a result of the gunbattle. Security in the area have been beefed up with additional forces from Riyadh and Madinah.

Qasim Governor Prince Faisal ibn Bandar commended the security men for evacuating more than 100 students and teachers at a nearby primary school without causing them any harm. The students and teachers were held up in the school as a result of the gunbattle.

A campaign of bombings and shootings blamed on Al-Qaeda has killed 90 civilians in the Kingdom since May 2003, according to official figures. Thirty-nine members of the security forces and 99 militants have also been killed.

Saudi officials say they have significantly eroded Al-Qaeda’s militant networks over the past year, killing several local leaders and seizing huge arms caches.

Yetserday’s weekly Cabinet meeting also denounced a series of bombings that took place in Lebanon over the past week. “Saudi Arabia wishes security and stability to prevail all over Lebanon and calls for the cooperation and understanding of all Lebanese groups,” Madani said.

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