Da Arab News del 06/04/2005
Originale su http://www.arabnews.com/?page=1&section=0&article=61662&d=...

Most Wanted Terrorists Killed

di Khaled Al-Awadh

AL-RASS — As many as 14 suspected terrorists, including most wanted Al-Qaeda leaders, have been killed and five others have been wounded in three days of fierce clashes, which ended here yesterday, the Interior Ministry said.

Crown Prince Abdullah commended the bravery displayed by the security forces in their fight against terror. “Our security men will remain a thorn in the throat of every aggressor who tries to undermine the country’s security and stability,” he said in a message to Interior Minister Prince Naif.

“Until the time of preparing this statement, 14 terrorists have been killed and five others have been wounded and arrested,” a ministry official said, adding that one gunman had surrendered to police.

The official said the security forces had successfully completed their mission in Al-Rass, 320 km northwest of Riyadh, where the clashes started on Sunday. Only 14 security men were wounded and hospitalized, the official said. Most of them, except two, sustained minor injuries, he said, adding that the injuries sustained by the two were not life threatening.

Earlier, Interior Ministry spokesman Brig. Mansour Al-Turki said security forces were still combing the area after the end of the battle to evacuate casualties and collect evidence. It was the longest and toughest battle with the terrorists who used rocket-propelled grenades, hand grenades and machine guns against security forces.

It was unclear whether Saleh Al-Oufi, commander of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, was among the killed in the Al-Rass battle. However, some sources said Saud Al-Otaibi, a Saudi, and Abdul Kareem Al-Majati, a Moroccan, both on the most wanted list, were among the dead. One militant belonging to the Onaiza cell surrendered to authorities, the sources said. The faces of three dead terrorists were disfigured beyond recognition and their true identity can be established only after DNA tests, a source said.

Security forces were cleansing the scene at the time of going to press and the sound of helicopters disturbed the tranquility of Al-Rass city that was awake for three nights. “Thank God the siege is over. It is a great moment to see these terrorists vanishing from our sights,” said Abdullah Al-Ruwais, a resident of Al-Rass.

A huge crowd of Saudis and expatriates was present at the scene. “I am just wondering why these people have come here and endanger their lives,” said one police officer who was seen driving the crowd away from the scene.

Four schools in the area remained closed for the second consecutive day. Police successfully evacuated 94 girl students and 13 female teachers of the 25th elementary school in the area on the first day while the battle was raging.

“Security forces have now complete control of the location. There is no resistance anymore,” Turki said. The security forces stormed the last villa in which militants were barricaded after the gunmen had been moving from house to house.

Dubai-based Al-Arabiya television reported on Monday that Otaibi and Majati had been killed in the battle. According to Saudi press reports, Majati was one of the masterminds of the May 2003 Casablanca bombings and the March 2004 Madrid train blast.

Turki, however, could not confirm the reports about Otaibi and Majati. “We cannot for the moment reveal the identities of those killed or arrested,” Turki said. “According to some reports, these leaders... are among them, but we need to confirm it,” he added.

The Interior Ministry said on Monday that seven Al-Qaeda suspects were killed and another was critically injured. “We want to take them alive but we will surround them until their military capabilities have been exhausted and try to avoid any losses among the security forces,” Turki said.

The gunbattles began early Sunday when security forces deployed in Al-Rass to track down a group of suspects who had taken refuge in a villa and come under fire from automatic weapons. Turki had told state television that the Al-Rass terrorists had stored “huge” amounts of ammunition and hand grenades.

If the deaths of Otaibi and Majati are confirmed, only four of the most wanted 26 terrorists remain on the run. The others have been either killed or captured. “This is a monumental breakthrough for Saudi security forces,” said Saudi security consultant Nawaf Obaid. “Not just domestically — Majati was the subject of a major manhunt across Europe,” he added.

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 in the violence.
Annotazioni − With input from Munif Al-Safouki and Abdul Maqsood Mirza.

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