Riyadh, July 28 (Reuters): Six Muslim militants and two policemen were killed today in a fierce firefight with security forces during a crackdown on wanted Islamists, Saudi Arabia’s interior ministry said.
Eight other policemen were slightly wounded in the clash at a farm in Qassim province, the ministry said in a statement read on Saudi television. Qassim is an Islamist heartland in the country’s northeast.
Saudi Arabia has intensified a hunt for Muslim militants since three bombings in Riyadh in May killed 35 people, including nine Americans.
The US and Saudi Arabia blamed Saudi-born Osama bin Laden’s al Qaida network for the attacks.
“The security forces besieged a farm in Qassim after information that a number of wanted men were hiding there. The suspects were asked to surrender, but they responded by firing at the security forces and also tossed hand grenades,” the statement said.
“The operation led to the killing of six suspects and the wounding of one of them. Two security men were martyred and eight others were slightly wounded,” it said. It said four people who gave the suspects refuge were arrested.
Riyadh said last week it had arrested 16 militants planning more attacks and seized a huge cache of arms and explosives.
It said then that Saudi security forces were chasing other militants linked to the cell but did not identify the 16 suspects or say what their targets were.
Western sources in Saudi Arabia say the authorities are cooperating closely with US investigators in tackling Saudi-based members and financiers of al Qaida.