ABU DHABI ø Al Qaida's operations chief in the Persian Gulf has been
Saudi officials said Abdul Aziz Al Muqrin was shot dead in a clash with
Saudi security forces in Riyad on late Friday, the third Al Qaida chief
killed in the kingdom over the last year. The officials said Al Muqrin, 33,
was killed hours after his Al Qaida cell announced its execution of abducted
Lockheed Martin engineer, Paul Johnson, a U.S. national.
On Saturday, Saudi television broadcast footage of Al Muqrin's body and
hours later Al Qaida acknowledged his death, Middle East Newsline reported. Three other Al Qaida operatives
were also said to have been killed in the shootout in Riyad. The Saudi
Interior Ministry identified the operatives as Al Muqrin's deputy, Faisal Al
Dakheel, as well as Turki Bin Fuheid Al Muteiry and Ibrahim Bin Abdullah Al
The ministry said Al Muqrin and his aides were in a car that was stopped
by Saudi security forces in the Malaz district of Riyad. The Al Qaida
operatives fled to a nearby gasoline station and engaged in a shootout with
security forces that lasted for several hours. Saudi helicopters were
deployed to prevent the escape of Al Muqrin and his cell.
Al Dakheel was believed to have appeared in Al Qaida's video footage in
which another U.S. defense contractor, Robert Jacobs, was executed in Riyad
on June 12. The Interior Ministry said Al Muteiry was a member of the Al
Qaida cell that captured the Oasis compound outside Khobar and executed 22
foreigners on May 29.
Al Dreiham was said to have helped plan and carry out the suicide strike
at a foreign housing compound in Riyad in November 2003 in which 17 people,
most of them Arab nationals, were killed. Al Muqrin and Al Dakheel were on
the Saudi list of top 26 wanted Al Qaida fugitives.
The Interior Ministry said security forces captured three cars used by
Al Muqrin, including one used in the June 6 attack on a BBC crew in which a
cameraman was killed and a correspondent was severely injured. The ministry
said security agents also seized three rocket-propelled grenade launchers,
rifles, grenades, forged identity papers and $38,000 in Saudi and U.S.
Saudi authorities were helped by the United States in the search for
Johnson. Saudi officials said the FBI sent a 20-member team that specialized
in hostage rescue, negotiations, profiling and other fields.
"Our security apparatus is not well trained in combating terrorism, but
they are learning," Saudi former Deputy Interior Minister Ibrahim Awaji
Al Muqrin was said to have drafted Al Qaida's strategy of targeting
Westerners, particularly U.S. nationals, as the most effective means of
undermining the Saudi royal family. He was appointed head of the Al Qaida
network in Saudi Arabia and the surrounding region after the killing of
Khaled Ali Haj in early 2004. Ali Haj succeeded Yusef Al Eiri, killed by
Saudi authorities in 2003.
Saudi officials said more than 15,000 Saudi troops had searched for
Johnson throughout Riyad on Thursday and Friday. They said officers searched
more than 1,200 Saudi homes by the time Johnson, abducted on June 12, was
reported to have been killed.
"We did everything we could to find him," Saudi foreign policy adviser
Adel Al Jubeir said in Washington. "We are deeply sorry that it was not
The State Department has continued to urge the estimated 30,000
Americans to leave Saudi Arabia. The department said it expected additional
Al Qaida strikes on Americans and other Westerners in the kingdom.
"The U.S. government continues to receive credible information
indicating that extremists are planning further attacks against U.S. and
Western interests," the department said. "Credible information indicates
that terrorists continue to target residential compounds in Saudi Arabia,
particularly in the Riyad area, and also compounds throughout the country.
Recent incidents indicate that American citizens residing in private
residences are also being specifically targeted."