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Al-Qaeda Saudi frontman killed in Riyadh shootout

07/03/2005 05:32 AM
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Al-Qaeda Saudi frontman killed in Riyadh shootout
RIYADH (AFP) - Saudi Arabiaīs most wanted man -- suspected Al-Qaeda frontman Yunis Mohammed Ibrahim al-Hayari -- was killed in a shootout with security forces in the capital just hours after a visit by British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

The Moroccan-born Hayari was killed "during a clash after security forces came under fire when they raided a suspected militantsī hideout in eastern Riyadh," the interior ministry said.

Six policemen were lightly wounded, said a ministry statement read out on state television.

The Dubai-based Al-Arabiya news channel had earlier reported that "the chief of al-Qaeda in Saudi Arabia, Yunis al-Hayari, was killed in a shootout in the Riyadh eastern neighbourhood of Rawda."

Two other wanted militants were wounded in the early morning clash, it added.

Hayari topped a list of 36 wanted militants issued by the oil-rich kingdomīs interior ministry just last Tuesday.

Ministry spokesman General Mansur al-Turki told AFP the firefight erupted at around 4:00 am (0100 GMT) as security forces raided a house believed to have been used by militants on the new wanted list, the third issued by the Saudi authorities since the launch of a wave of Islamist violence in May 2003.

"One of the fugitives was killed in the raid," he said, declining to name him.

A witness told AFP the dead man was believed to be Hayari and that a number of wanted militants had been arrested.

Hayari, 36, entered Saudi Arabia on a pilgrimage visa in February 2001 accompanied by his wife and daughter.

But he stayed on in the kingdom illegally, the interior ministry said when announcing its new wanted list last week.

The ministry called on the wanted militants to surrender, saying this would be "taken into consideration when looking into their cases."

The two-year-old violence in the worldīs top oil producer and exporter has claimed the lives of 90 civilians, 42 security personnel and 112 militants according to the latest official toll.

After his talks with Crown Prince Abdullah, the kingdomīs de facto ruler, late Saturday, Blair praised the Saudi authoritiesī efforts to bring down world oil prices, still well above the 50 dollar a barrel mark after topping 60 dollars last month.

"I think to be fair they are doing what they can," he said.

Britain has come in for some criticism from the Saudi authorities for sheltering Islamist opposition leaders dedicated to the overthrow of the regime, including Movement for Islamic Reform in Arabia chief Saad al-Faqih.

Britain froze the movementīs assets in December after Washington named the London-based Faqih as a suspected Al-Qaeda financier but Blair refused to be drawn on any future extradition request from the Saudis.

"There are legal processes that have to be gone through in respect of any individual, and itīs probably better I donīt comment on those," he said.

[link to news.yahoo.com]