| A file picture of the Haram mosque in Mecca. (AFP)
Riyadh, Nov. 6 (Reuters): At least one Muslim militant blew himself up during a police raid in Mecca today, hours after another militant was shot dead in Riyadh as authorities cracked down on suspected al Qaida activists.
Today’s raids, the second action against militant hideouts this week, came shortly after the US and Britain warned of terror attacks during the Muslim fasting month of Ramazan.
A Saudi security source said police in Mecca had been hunting down militants when one of them killed himself.
“Most probably one of the fugitives blew himself up. Another suspect may also have done the same, but we are still waiting for autopsy results,” the source said.
There were no immediate reports of other casualties.
The raid took place in the same area of Mecca where two militants believed linked to al Qaida were killed in a shootout with security forces earlier this week.
Earlier today, police raided a suspected hideout in the capital Riyadh at dawn, shooting dead one militant.
The Saudi Press Agency quoted an interior ministry official as saying eight policemen were slightly wounded in the clash in the capital’s southern Suweidi area.
The official said an unspecified number of militants had escaped. He gave no further details.
Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of al Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, is battling Muslim militants after a spate of guerrilla attacks, including a triple suicide bombing that killed 35 people.
On Tuesday, the interior ministry said police had foiled a plot to target Muslim pilgrims in Mecca. Five militants — four Saudis and a Nigerian — linked to the plot were arrested.
Today, an interior ministry statement said the Mecca militants had intended to use a huge amount of explosives and rocket-propelled grenades to cause maximum damage.
The statement said that while searching the militants' hideout, police had found large stockpiles of machineguns, hand grenades, ammunition and various kinds of explosives.
“This just goes to show the extensive damage that would have happened to our country if these terrorists were allowed to go ahead with their crime,” the statement said.
The kingdom has arrested hundreds of suspected militants since the May 12 suicide bombings on Riyadh housing compounds.
The recent terrorist attacks cannot be blamed on a lack of democracy, and any political reform in the kingdom must take Islam into account, interior minister Prince Nayef said in remarks published today. “Justifying the deeds of some terrorist groups by the lack of democracy ... is not correct,” Prince Nayef told the pan-Arab newspaper al Hayat, adding his government was doing everything possible against terrorism.