Saudis: Key Riyadh suspect dead
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia -- A key al Qaeda fugitive wanted in connection with the Riyadh suicide bombings has been killed after being cornered by police, Saudi officials said.
The Saudi Interior Ministry said Turki Nasser al-Dandani died in a shootout with police on Thursday after authorities surrounded a home in northern Saudi Arabia.
According to a ministry statement read on Saudi television, al-Dandani and four other suspects fired on security forces with automatic rifles and threw hand grenades at them, Reuters reported.
Security forces fired back, killing four of the five men, according to the statement. The fifth man gave himself up.
The Associated Press quoted a Saudi Interior Ministry official as saying the four suspects were killed after they ran out of ammunition in a five-hour standoff.
Earlier, wire services quoted the Interior Ministry as saying al-Dandani had blown himself up. Al-Arabiya television reported that he used a hand grenade to kill himself and two other militants after police surrounded the house.
The incident occurred in the northern province of al-Jawf, 900 km (560 miles) north of the capital Riyadh and about 160 km from the border with Iraq and Jordan.
"Security forces raided the house of an imam of one of the mosques in Suwayr in al-Jawf province where five wanted terrorists were hiding," Reuters quoted the Interior Ministry as saying.
"The terrorists opened fire with heavy automatic rifle fire and hand grenades. The security forces returned fire." The imam gave himself up before the shootout, the ministry said.
Al-Dandani's name topped the original list of 19 suspects wanted by Saudis prior to the May 12 bombings in the Saudi capital.
The nearly simultaneous bombings at three compounds housing Westerners in Riyadh killed 23 people, including nine Americans. Twelve other bodies were identified as attackers.
Last month, another key suspect the Riyadh attacks turned himself in to Saudi authorities.
Ali Abd al-Rahman al-Faqasi al-Ghamdi, who authorities said has deep ties to al Qaeda, surrendered to Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, the third ranking official in the Saudi Interior Ministry. (Full story)
Following al-Ghamdi's surrender, al-Dandani became the most wanted man in Saudi Arabia.
A Saudi official has told CNN he believed that the break in the Riyadh case came after a June 14 bust by Saudi authorities of a suspected terror ring in Mecca, one of Islam's holiest sites. (Full story)
During the bust, Saudi authorities discovered, among other things, what one official described as "booby-trapped Korans," the Muslim holy book.
That discovery, said the official, may have been a final straw of sorts for Saudi religious leaders, who denounced the plot for its double hypocrisy in allegedly plotting a terror attack in Mecca and in waging a holy war against infidels using Islam's holiest book.
U.S. and Saudi officials have blamed the Riyadh attacks on the al Qaeda terror network, which has also been blamed for the September 11, 2001, attacks in the United States and the bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen in 2000 that killed 17 American sailors.