ABU DHABI Ñ Saudi security forces engaged in a gun battle with an Al Qaida cell Sunday after a high speed police chase of a car which ended at a rest stop.
The rest stop turned out to be an Al Qaida weapons cache.
Saudi officials said police followed a car traveling at high speeds some 15 kilometers north of Riyad. The car tried to
escape a Saudi police patrol and arrived at a rest stop.
The rest house was surrounded by Saudi forces when about 10 gunmen came
out with machine guns blazing, officials said. They said some of the
suspected Al Qaida members escaped in a shootout in which an Indian passerby
Saudi sources said the Al Qaida cell had planned to attack unspecified
British targets, Middle East Newsline reported. They said the cell, which used the rest house as a weapons
cache, had been tracked and placed under surveillance for several months.
They said the cell consists of up to 10 members who had access to a large amount of weapons and
Britain maintains combat aircraft and military advisers in Saudi Arabia.
London is also a leading military supplier to the Saudi kingdom.
Details of the shootout appeared sketchy. The Jedda-based Arab News
reported on Tuesday that the Al Qaida suspects escaped while the Saudi-owned
Al Hayat daily, based in London, said eight of the suspects were captured.
Saudi security forces have arrested more than 260 suspected Al Qaida
insurgents since the May 12 suicide strikes in Riyad in which 35 people were
killed. The arrests have included teenagers who have distributed pro-Al
Qaida literature that called for confrontations against the kingdom.
In Washington, a Saudi official told a briefing at the Saudi embassy on
Monday that the 10-member cell tracked in Riyad was linked to a London-based
dissident, identified as Saad Faqih. The official said the cell was captured
by Saudi forces.
The unidentified official also said an FBI team has held three sessions
of questioning of an Al Qaida suspect in the kingdom. A congressional report
released last month said Omar Al Bayoumi, the suspect, met two of the 15
Saudi suicide hijackers in the Al Qaida attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.
The Saudi official also said Iran has failed to respond to Saudi
requests for the extradition of Al Qaida insurgents held by Teheran. The
official said as many as 15 Al Qaida leaders, including the son of Osama Bin
Laden, were being held by Iran.