The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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High Indian count in al Qaida strike
Eight killed in Saudi siege

Khobar/New Delhi, May 30: Eight Indians were killed in the militant assault on a housing complex in the Saudi oil city of Khobar in which 22 people died.

Saudi commandos jumped from helicopters to storm the upmarket Oasis complex and freed several dozen hostages from militants to end a 25-hour drama in the eastern city.

With a count of eight — though the Indian embassy in the Saudi capital of Riyadh was yet to confirm the number saying four had died and three were missing — Indians formed the largest nationality group among the dead.

An Internet statement purporting to come from Osama bin Laden’s al Qaida network said it carried out the unprecedented hostage-taking. A later statement signed by “al Qaida network in the Arabian Peninsula” vowed to rid the peninsula of “infidels”.

In a dramatic end to the standoff, television pictures showed helicopters dropping commandos onto the roof of the complex. The militants’ leader was captured but three others, holding hostages at gunpoint, escaped.

The commandos freed about 41 foreign hostages and evacuated another 201 residents trapped in the Oasis compound.

The Indians who died were identified as Lawrence Gregory Monice from Mangalore, P.K. Pradeep Kumar and J.. Jose from Kerala, Suresh Kumar and J. Ram from Rajasthan, Charles Clethens Carlos, John Fernando from Goa and Vikram from Bihar.

There was confusion about some of the names coming through from Riyadh. Many of the Indians were employees of the Saudi maintenance company, Al Saad, located in the Oasis complex.

“We sent a team to Khobar the moment we heard about the attack,” the Indian ambassador in Riyadh, Kamaluddin Ahmad, told The Telegraph on phone. He said the Indian team was in touch with Saudi police and had been checking the hospitals there.

Saudi authorities did not say if the eight had been killed by the militants or had died when the security forces stormed the building.

Monice’s family said he seemed to have been driving to office and had stopped at a traffic junction when the militants opened fire. The 46-year-old, living in Saudi Arabia since 1982, was working as assistant general manager in Al-Sagr Insurance Corporation.

Reports filtering back to India suggested there could be several Indians among the rescued hostages. Saudi officials said 25 people of various nationalities had been injured.

Of the two from Kerala who died, Pradeep Kumar belonged to Alappuzha and Jose to Thrissur. Pradeep was a plumbing supervisor in the Oasis complex and was expected to be home early June.

Agency reports said al Qaida gunmen slit the throats of seven Asians, a Swede and an Italian after killing at least 10 people. Jordanian computer engineer Nijar Hijazin, who was among the hostages rescued, said: “The nine had their throats cut by the kidnappers when they tried to escape at night by the stairs.”

The standoff began on Saturday when gunmen in military uniforms shot at Western oil firms and housing compounds before fleeing to the Oasis complex.

Witnesses said the militants drove cars with military markings into the complex of the Apicorp oil investment firm and opened fire. They then went into two other compounds, including Oasis, which has housed executives from leading oil firms Royal Dutch/Shell, Total and LUKOIL.

The four gunmen, aged 18 to 25 and wearing military vests, grabbed Abu Hashem, an Iraqi with a US passport, in front of his home in the Oasis compound but let him go when he told them he was a Muslim.

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