Al-Qaida suspect dies in shootout with Saudi police

U.S. Embassy personnel still restricted to quarters

December 09, 2003|By KNIGHT RIDDER/TRIBUNE

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia - A suspected al-Qaida member was killed in a shootout with police yesterday, two days after authorities launched a manhunt for 26 fugitives linked to a wave of attacks in the kingdom.

Security forces said they shot Ibrahim Muhmmad Abdullah al Rayyes after he started shooting when police attempted to arrest him at a gas station southeast of Riyadh just after dawn yesterday. No officers were injured, the Saudi Press Agency said.

Investigators found forged documents and a hand grenade on al Rayyes' body.

A search of his home uncovered three hand grenades, a machine gun, three pistols and ammunition, the press agency said.

U.S. Embassy personnel remained under orders yesterday not to leave their heavily guarded residential compound except on essential business, but U.S. and Saudi officials said they had received no concrete information about a possible attack.

Members of the embassy staff were restricted to their residential compound Saturday.

Yesterday's shootout was the latest in a series of violent confrontations that have resulted in the deaths of suspected al-Qaida leaders as well as nearly a dozen Saudi security officers since car bombings May 12 in Riyadh killed 35, including nine Americans.

A tip from a citizen led police to the fugitive, authorities said, but it was unclear whether the informant would receive a reward.

Saudi authorities posted rewards of up to $1.8 million for information that would halt an attack or result in the arrests of any of the 26 fugitives. Al Rayyes was No. 4 on the list.

Saudi authorities released the names and photographs of the men late Saturday as part of a widespread investigation into suicide bombings, which have killed 53 people over the past six months.

Authorities foiled another bombing plot Nov. 25 that intelligence officials said targeted senior members of the royal family.

The leading fugitive on the most-recent wanted list is Abdul Aziz Isa Abdul Mohsen al Mugrin, a school dropout who authorities think might be emerging as a new leader in Saudi Arabia's al-Qaida chapter.

Al Mugrin is suspected of being the ringleader of the foiled car bombing and a participant in the May 12 bombings.

Many of the 26 suspects were trained in al-Qaida camps in Afghanistan, according to Interior Ministry officials. The list named 23 Saudis, including al Rayyes, two Moroccans and one Yemeni.

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