Three suspected militants are killed in clash with Saudi security forces

Tuesday, October 12th 2004, 6:15 am
By: News On 6

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) _ Three suspected militants armed with guns and hand grenades were killed in a clash with Saudi security forces, an Interior Ministry statement said Tuesday.

Seven police were wounded in the confrontation with the militants, who were hiding on the second floor of a house in eastern Riyadh, the statement said.

The security forces evacuated seven women and a child whom the militants had placed at the first floor of the house ``to use as shields and to mislead the security forces,'' the statement said, quoting an unnamed Interior Ministry official.

It said security forces surrounded the house after suspecting that ``men belonging to the misguided group'' _ a phrase used to describe militants _ were in the house.

``When they began searching the house, they came under heavy machine gun fire,'' said the statement, adding that the attackers also used hand grenades.

Security forces found weapons and documents in the house, the statement said.

The confrontation is part of an ongoing crackdown on militants that the Saudi government launched after al-Qaida affiliated operatives attacked three residential compounds in Riyadh on May 12, 2003. Several other attacks followed and a number of Westerners have been killed, including an American who was kidnapped in June and later beheaded.

The government has killed or captured many of the group's top leaders in the kingdom and arrested scores of suspected militants.

Despite the progress, officials say the threat remains that al-Qaida operatives in Saudi Arabia could strike again.