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Saudi police foil carb bomb attack
( 2003-11-26 08:46) (Reuters)

Saudi Arabia said it foiled a car bombing in Riyadh Tuesday when security forces shot dead two "terrorists" it said was on the verge of launching an attack.

The thwarted strike on the first day of the Eid al-Fitr holiday followed a devastating wave of bombings in Saudi Arabia and Muslim Turkey in the holy month of Ramadan blamed on the militant al Qaeda network.

State television quoted an Interior Ministry official as saying the shootout occurred at around noon (0900 GMT) as the "terror operation...was about to be carried out."

The security forces killed two unidentified men and seized a "vehicle which was primed for explosion," it said.

It gave no further details, but Riyadh residents said they heard gunfire shortly after 3 p.m. in the northeast of the city, an area housing several expatriate compounds. Some said the shooting followed a car chase.

Police cars were seen blocking off at least one road in the area by mid-afternoon.

Suspected al Qaeda bombers killed at least 18 people at a compound on Riyadh's desert outskirts just over two weeks ago. In May, triple suicide bombings killed 35 people in the capital.

The attacks have prompted a heavy security crackdown in Saudi Arabia, the cradle of Islam and birthplace of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. Analysts had said they feared further violence at the end of Ramadan.


In Washington, Saudi Ambassador Prince Bandar bin Sultan, said the police action showed "there is no safe place for al Qaeda in Saudi Arabia."

"We are hunting down the terrorists and flushing them from their hiding places...God willing, we will continue to find them and bring them to harsh justice," he said in a statement.

Bandar said the attempted attack during a Muslim celebration showed the militants had no morals or religious values. "Their aim is to take away our security and take over the state. Instead of progress and reform, they want to turn Saudi Arabia into a Taliban society. But they will not succeed," he said.

Security in the holy city of Mecca has been tightened to prevent attacks on pilgrims after authorities clashed with gunmen twice this month and uncovered a cache of weapons and explosives.

Protection around many expatriate compounds in the capital, already guarded by machine guns, razor wire and forces from Saudi Arabia's National Guard, was also raised even higher.

King Fahd has vowed to crack down with an "iron fist" against anyone involved in the attacks. He appealed Monday for all Muslims to unite against "terrorism."

His message was echoed by Saudi Arabia's top religious authority, Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz bin Abdullah al-Sheikh, who said the militants were threatening the country's stability.

"Today we are in dire need of unifying our ranks and voices and supporting our leadership against those who threaten our religion, security, resources and stability," he said at dawn prayers Tuesday marking the start of Eid al-Fitr.

Saudi Arabia has been under pressure from the United States to curb militancy ever since the September 11, 2001, attacks against U.S. targets, carried out by mainly Saudi hijackers.

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