Two al-Qaida suspects shot dead in Saudi Arabia
Riyadh: Saudi authorities killed two suspected al-Qaida members carrying explosive vests in a shootout Tuesday, the government said, in a sign the group is plotting new attacks in the kingdom.
A police official was also killed and a third suspect arrested in the firefight near Saudi Arabia`s southern border with Yemen, interior ministry spokesman General Mansur al-Turki said.
The early morning shootout took place at a police checkpoint about 120 kilometers (72 miles) from Jizan on the road to Asir in southern Saudi Arabia.
Two of the three men, who had been on board a vehicle, were wearing women`s clothing with explosive vests underneath and carried grenades, according to Turki.
"More grenades, automatic weapons and bomb-making materials" were also found in the vehicle, Turki added.
It was the latest in a series of incidents, including the August 28 attempt to assassinate the country`s top internal security official, that suggest al-Qaida is plotting attacks in the country, at least some from the group`s resurgent Yemen-based wing.
The shooting broke out when the vehicle was about to undergo a security check on the basis of "information on the planning of terrorist acts by the deviant minority," said an interior ministry statement, using the standard Saudi phraseology for al-Qaida.
Turki said that when a policewoman wanted to check the identities of two people in the vehicle dressed in women`s robes the suspects began shooting at security forces, who returned fire.
He said the hail of bullets resulted in "the deaths of two passengers in the vehicle and the arrest of a third."
Turki said one police officer was killed and another wounded in the exchange of fire, and added that no further details would be given for the moment "so an inquiry can get under way."
It was not immediately known if the policewoman was among the casualties.
On August 28, Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, the powerful deputy interior minister responsible for the kingdom`s anti-terror fight, escaped a suicide bomb attack in Jeddah.
A wanted Saudi member of the Yemen-based "al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula" (AQAP), ostensibly turning himself in to the prince, detonated an explosive reported hidden in his rectum inside the prince`s Jeddah palace.
Aside from killing the bomber himself, however, no other serious injuries were reported in the incident.
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