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Witness: Attackers hunted Westerners


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Mowad said attackers set off a car bomb at the main entrance.
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Gunmen attack an oil company compound in Khobar, Saudi Arabia.
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(CNN) -- The movers had just arrived Saturday morning around 8 a.m. at Marwan Mowad's residence in Khobar, Saudi Arabia to help him pack for his move to the United States, when Mowad heard the sound of gunfire.

At first he thought it might be a tire exploding. More outbursts confirmed it was gunfire, and he was told that three or four people were dead.

"I opened the door to look out and the two guys that work on the inside security gate on the section where we live were running toward the villa [where I live]," Mowad told CNN.

"[One of the guards] said, 'Hey, three or four terrorists just jumped over the gate and came in with submachine guns.'"

Mowad, who works for a U.S.-based multinational chemical company, has dual Syrian and American citizenship. He said he was preparing to move back to the United States after working in Saudi Arabia for over 10 years, when the violence broke out.

The attackers approached the compound's side entrance in a vehicle, and opened fire on the armed guards stationed at the first gate. When the two unarmed civilian guards manning the inside gate heard the gunfire, they closed the gate and ran, Mowad said.

"It's probably ... the tightest security at the main gate, but they did not come through the main gate," Mowad said. He said they apparently set off a car bomb at the main gate, and drove through the side entrances.

After entering the compound, the gunmen went from door to door, apparently looking for Westerners.

"One guy, a Frenchman, his wife and kids, [the gunmen] knew they were inside [the villa] so they tried to put the place on fire," he said.

Because the buildings are made of reinforced concrete and not flammable, the attackers burned the curtains and furniture inside the villa. The French family was able to escape, Mowad said.

He also described some of the attackers, disguised in paramilitary uniforms, hoping to lure residents out so they could shoot them.

Mowad hid in a safe place on the building's second floor, with several others, for over eight hours.

After the shooting stopped around 12:30 p.m., he said he was able to contact internal security and they advised him it was not safe to leave. He finally was cleared to leave at 4:30 p.m. and eventually taken to a hotel in Khobar.

Although his decision to leave Saudi Arabia after a decade of working there was both a personal and business decision, Mowad said the ordeal Saturday "made the decision easier to leave."


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