The chickens have come home to roost................
October 13, 2009
RIYADH — Saudi authorities killed two suspected Al-Qaeda 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-Qaeda 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-Qaeda.
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-Qaeda 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.
But it underscored the determination of Al-Qaeda to undertake attacks in the kingdom, after a three-year campaign of assassinations and bombings in 2003-2006 was halted by a severe crackdown and thousands of arrests.
That attack followed the arrest in Saudi Arabia earlier in August of 44 Al-Qaeda suspects, including one foreigner, and the discovery of arms caches used by the group.
Police found around 70 machine guns, as well as ammunition and 280 electronic detonation devices in Riyadh, and another 96 similar devices hidden in the desert in the Qassim region north of the capital, SPA said.
It said some members of the group have received training to use arms and explosives both abroad and inside the kingdom, the birthplace of Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
Riyadh is especially concerned about the resurgence of AQAP in Yemen, where the weak government has been ineffective in cracking down on the group.
Last month Michael Leiter, director of the US National Counterterrorism Center, said the group has gained a dangerous foothold in Yemen.
"We have witnessed the reemergence of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, with Yemen as a key battleground and potential regional base of operations from which Al-Qaeda can plan attacks, train recruits and facilitate the movement of operatives," Leiter told a US Senate hearing.
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