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Suspect in Saudi Attacks Dies in Shootout

Suspect in Saudi Attacks Dies in Shootout

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JIDDAH, Saudi Arabia (AP) -- An al-Qaida member who was the top suspect wanted in the Riyadh suicide bombings was killed along with three other militants in a shootout with police Thursday, officials said.

Police swooped down early Thursday on Turki Nasser al-Dandani and his associates, who were holed up in a house in the town of Suweir, 560 miles northwest of the capital, an Interior Ministry official said.

After a five-hour standoff, the suspects ran out of ammunition.

Four suspects, including al-Dandani, were killed; a fifth man gave himself up. Earlier, officials said al-Dandani had blown himself up, but it was unclear late Thursday how he had died.

Al-Dandani, a member of Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida terror network, was being pursued for his alleged involvement in the suicide bombings of Westerners' housing compounds in Riyadh on May 12, which killed 25 people as well as nine attackers.

He became the most wanted man in Saudi Arabia after last week's arrest of the suspected mastermind of the attacks, Ali Abd al-Rahman al-Faqasi al-Ghamdi. Al-Ghamdi surrendered on Saturday at the home of Deputy Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Nayaf.

Interior Minister Prince Nayef said at the time that "some important suspects" were still at large, and al-Dandani's name was the foremost mentioned in news reports.

Al-Dandani was the No. 1 figure on the wanted list of 19 suspected militants that Saudi police published after the discovery of an arms cache in Riyadh on May 6.

U.S. counterterrorism officials in Washington predicted that al-Ghamdi's arrest would severely hamper al-Qaida's operations in Saudi Arabia, and al-Dandani's death is likely to further diminish the group's capacity.

The kingdom is the birthplace of al-Qaida leader bin Laden, and home to 15 of the 19 hijackers who took part in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.

Saudi authorities have detained at least 125 people since the May 12 attacks in a major sweep that has seen armed police manning checkpoints in major cities, checking identity papers and searching cars.

Last month, police raided an apartment in Mecca where they found members of an alleged terror cell who were allegedly planning to carry out attacks in the city, Islam's holiest.

The interior minister said last month that he thought al-Qaida was involved in the Riyadh suicide bombings, in which nine assailants blew up vehicles at housing compounds for expatriates.

"I think it is al-Qaida (who executed the attacks) and there might be other (terror) organizations who helped or worked closely in the attacks," Prince Nayef told the state-controlled Saudi newspaper Okaz.

The prince said this week that among the detainees are several other people linked to al-Qaida, men who returned from Afghanistan, foreign nationals and at least five women.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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