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Saudi police believe al Qaeda suspects cornered

From Caroline Faraj
CNNArabic.com

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(CNN) -- Saudi security forces say they believe they have cornered four suspects, including al Qaeda's top coordinator in the Arabian Peninsula, in an area northwest of the capital Riyadh.

Security forces went to Al-Amariya -- about 25 miles outside of Riyadh --on Sunday on information that four wanted men were hiding in the mountains.

One of those men is believed to be Abdul Aziz al-Mukrin -- a "big fish," according to police. Al-Mukrin is the main liaison between al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda members in Saudi Arabia, Saudi Interior Ministry officials say.

Al-Mukrin took over that role when Khaled Ali Haj was killed by Saudi police March 15, according to the officials.

In February, a man on an audiotape claiming to be al-Mukrin called on young Saudis to join the "jihad," or holy war.

Two of the three men with al-Mukrin are also believed to be on Saudi authorities' list of men wanted in connection with terror attacks in the kingdom, police said. The original list contained 26 names but arrests, surrenders and deaths have cut the list to 18.

One of the men has been wounded in the standoff, police said.

Police vowed they will remain in Al-Amariya until the wanted men give up or are killed, according to journalists there.

Saudi authorities have been cracking down on terror suspects after the kingdom was hit by a series of bombings.

On April 23, Saudi police in the port city of Jeddah shot and killed one suspected terrorist, and a second blew himself up after a police pursuit. The men had fled after three other suspects wee killed in a shootout with police.

Saudi television quoted an official saying that four of the dead suspects were on the country's most wanted list. (Full story)

After the gunbattle, the official said, police found weapons, explosives and two cars that had been used in earlier attacks.

On April 21, a car bomb attack on a security forces building in Riyadh killed at least five people and wounded 147 others.

A group, called The Brigade of the Two Holy Shrines, claimed responsibility for the bombing and two other attacks in Saudi Arabia, both of them assassinations of security forces. (Full story)

On April 20, security forces reported that they had defused five truck bombs that had been found in and around Riyadh in the past week. Police had set up several checkpoints in Riyadh during the search.

A senior Saudi official said that simultaneous bombings are an al Qaeda trademark.

After the April 21 attack, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the Saudi ambassador to the United States, said his nation was now in "total war" against terrorists. (Full story)

Saudi authorities have been battling domestic Islamic militants since May 2003, when triple suicide bombings at residential compounds housing Westerners in Riyadh killed 23 people.

Then, in November, a car bombing struck a mostly Arab neighborhood near Riyadh's diplomatic quarter, killing at least 17 people.


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