Saudis crack down on flood of immigrants from Yemen

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

ABU DHABI Saudi Arabia is cracking down on illegal migrants from neighboring Yemen.

Saudi officials said authorities have detained about 50,000 people who tried to cross from Yemen into the kingdom during March 2004, Middle East Newsline reported. The officials said the massive border security effort was the result of new cooperation with Yemen's government.

On Saturday, the Saudi Press Agency quoted border police on the arrest of illegal migrants during March. The police said it had detained 51,811 people during the Islamic pilgrimage.

Lt. Gen. Talal Al Angawi, director-general of the Saudi Border Guards said 47,599 illegal migrants were arrested in the southern Jizan province, which borders Yemen. Al Angawi said another 2,405 infiltrators were arrested in Asir and Najran, two other provinces along the Yemeni border.

In March, Saudi Arabia and Yemen launched security cooperation along their 1,800-kilometer border. This included joint patrols as well as intelligence exchange.

About 1,000 of the detainees were arrested along the northern Saudi border with Iraq and along the eastern border with Kuwait.

Al Qaida was said to have employed the Yemeni border for the smuggling of weapons and insurgents into Saudi Arabia. Over the last week, Al Qaida was believed to have resumed its campaign against Saudi police and security officers, killing two officers in Jedda and one in Riyad.

On late Monday, two people were killed in a shootout between Saudi security officers and Al Qaida insurgents in Riyad. Several of the insurgents, said to have fired rocket-propelled grenades, escaped.

"A police patrol identified a car carrying two terror suspects and tracked it down to the Al Faiha neighborhood, and the two opened fire on security officers as they stopped in front of a villa they were using as a hideout," a Saudi official was quoted by the Saudi Press Agency as saying.

"Meanwhile a group of militants came out and started firing arms including RPGs. This resulted in an exchange of fire and the deaths of a militant and a security officer."

Copyright 2004 East West Services, Inc.

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