Da Arab News del 19/08/2005
Originale su http://www.arabnews.com/?page=1&section=0&article=68673&d=...

Al-Qaeda Chief in Kingdom Killed

di Roger Harrison, Javid Hassan

RIYADH/MADINAH/JEDDAH — Saleh Al-Oufi, the leader of Al-Qaeda in Saudi Arabia, was killed in a shoot-out with police and security forces in Madinah yesterday. In a coordinated strike, security forces raided premises in both Riyadh and Madinah after locating armed terrorist suspects. In Riyadh, four terrorists died and one was arrested. In Madinah, two died — including Al Oufi — and one was injured.

According to an analyst on Al-Arabiya TV, they were traced from calls on their mobile phones. It later transpired that the mobile calls between the terrorists had also been intercepted by the US Embassy, the analyst said.

The operations followed warnings by the diplomatic missions of Australia, Britain and the United States 10 days earlier that militant attacks were imminent against their properties and nationals in the Kingdom. The US Embassy in Riyadh and its consulates in Jeddah and Dhahran were closed on Aug. 8 and 9, following “credible information” about possible strikes.

In Riyadh, the events took place near Exit 5 on the Riyadh Ring Road in the Al-Maseef neighborhood to the north of the city, the site of many wedding halls and new up-market houses inhabited by an affluent section of the society. It attracts young bachelor Saudis with its array of Internet cafes and coffee shops.

Police had a suspect building under surveillance since Wednesday and at around 6 yesterday morning contacted the insurgents, asking them to surrender.

The terrorists tried to escape, but found themselves hemmed in by security forces. Trapped, they opened fire in a renewed attempt to escape. Three of them were gunned down, one was injured and captured.

One of the dead militants, Farraj Al-Juwait, is believed to be on a wanted list of 36 terror suspects.

According to Al-Arabiya TV, the body of a fourth militant was mutilated beyond recognition. Al-Arabiya said he probably blew himself up when the security forces tried to capture him.

According to Brig. Gen. Mansour Al-Turki, spokesman of the Interior Ministry, some of the militants were from the third list of the 36 most wanted men. He blamed the militants for initiating the gunfight.

“We always give them (terrorists) time to surrender, but unfortunately they preferred the path of violence. We had to fire back in self-defense,” he said.

The detainees in the capital included the owner of the villa. He was arrested for providing logistic support to the terrorists.

While the Riyadh raid was under way, a tandem operation was mounted in Madinah. According to security sources, up to seven separate operations were under way in the morning.

In the neighborhood of Al-Bahar, a densely populated suburb of the city two km south of the Prophet’s Mosque, police and security forces engaged a group of insurgents holed up in a house in the area. After negotiations failed, the insurgents opened fire at about midday and security forces responded.

Eyewitnesses said that considerable damage to property occurred during the engagement.

Speculation at the time of the raid that one of the two insurgents killed was Saleh Al-Oufi, the last but one remaining terror suspect on the list of 26 most wanted men and current head of Al-Qaeda in the Kingdom, was later confirmed by Gen. Mansour Al-Turki. In a text received at 4.10 p.m. he said, “It is confirmed now that Saleh Al-Oufi has been killed in Madinah today.”

One injured insurgent was taken to hospital and a total of nine arrests were made in six other locations. The suspects were taken away for questioning.

A police officer, Lance Cpl. Muhammad Muawad Al-Harbi, was wounded in the exchange of fire and later died and an bystander was severely wounded.

Prince Muqrin, Madinah governor, and Deputy Interior Minister for Security Affairs Prince Muhammad ibn Naif attended the funeral prayers for Al-Harbi at the Prophet’s Mosque. Having secured the area, police conducted an intensive search for weapons and explosives.

The militants surrendered to the security forces in four of the raids in the city. In a fifth, however, they fought back, leaving at least one building gutted and several vehicles charred. Smoke from a raging fire billowed across the sky blanketing the surrounding landscape.

The Ministry of the Interior exercised its usual caution in confirming Al-Oufi’s identity. In an earlier communication to Arab News Gen. Mansour Al-Turki said, “Usually the identity of killed persons has to be confirmed clinically and by personal identification which has not been done in the case of today’s operation. An official statement will be issued today to give final results.”

A raid by security forces in early April which left 14 insurgents dead, four injured, and one in detention, engendered speculation that Al-Oufi had been killed in the operation.

“There are some indications that one of the people killed could be Saleh Al-Oufi,” an official statement said at the time. DNA tests later proved that it was not Al-Oufi.

Following the deaths of Abdul Aziz Al-Muqrin — the probable mastermind of the kidnapping and beheading of American engineer Paul M. Johnson Jr. — and his second in command and the reported capture by the security forces of Rakan Mohsin Mohammad Al-Saikhan, the No. 3, in an encounter with the Saudi security forces on June 18, 2004, the Saudi cell of Al-Qaeda, nominated Saleh Mohammed Al-Oufi as the head of the organization. He was fifth in its hierarchy of surviving leaders.

Kareem Al-Tohami Al-Mojati was skipped over possibly because he is Moroccan and has limited knowledge of Saudi Arabia.

It was Al-Oufi who led Al-Qaeda following the death of Al-Muqrin. He spearheaded the terrorist attack on the US Consulate building in Jeddah last year.

Al-Oufi, a native of Madinah, was the next in line and the obvious choice.

In 1994, he was deployed by Al-Qaeda against Russian troops in Chechnya. He was injured in one of battles there, forcing his return to Saudi Arabia for medical treatment.

The news of the death of Al-Oufi was greeted with joy by Madinah residents. Mansour Ali Al-Muhammadi, resident of Al-Saieh area, to the west of the Prophet’s Mosque, was near the scene of the shootout.

“I was happy and sad at the same time. Happy that finally a criminal was gunned down and sad that such an incident could happen in the peaceful city of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). These terrorists have no dignity and do not care about people and no one is sorry that they are dead.”

Yesterday’s antiterrorist offensive was the first since the liquidation of Yunus Al-Hayyari, the Al-Qaeda terrorist from Morocco, recently.

When he assumed power, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah announced that there would not be any letup in the fight against the deviant forces.
Annotazioni − Yousif Muhammad, Abdul Hannan Faisal Tago, Muneef Al-Sufoogi and Abdul Maqsood Mirza contributed to this report

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