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Saudis Say Militant Cell Raided, Attack Thwarted

November 28, 2003|From Reuters

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — Security forces found a pickup truck packed with more than a ton of explosives when they raided a militant cell primed to launch a "terrorist operation" in Riyadh, Saudi officials said Thursday.

State television showed footage of the truck filled with the explosives, rocket-propelled grenades and gas cylinders, apparently to magnify the force of any explosion. It was seized after a clash Tuesday in which two wanted militants were killed.

Officials said the raid by security forces thwarted an imminent attack during the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr. The raid came less than three weeks after suspected Al Qaeda bombers killed at least 18 people in a residential compound in the Saudi capital.

An Interior Ministry source said the truck contained 2,790 pounds of ammonium nitrate-based explosives. More explosives were found nearby, along with more than 1,000 rounds of ammunition.

The two men killed Tuesday were Abdul Mohsen Abdul Aziz Shebanat and Musaid Mohammed Daidan Subaie, the Interior Ministry said.

Shebanat was shot and killed as he fired at security forces from the trunk of a car and Subaie blew himself up with a hand grenade, the ministry said. Shebanat's corpse and Subaie's mangled remains also were shown on television.

Security forces were still hunting down an unspecified number of militants who escaped, the ministry said.

Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam, has cracked down heavily on suspected Muslim militants since May, when triple suicide bombings in Riyadh killed 35 people.

It says Saudi-born Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda network is trying to topple the royal family, which rules the world's biggest oil exporter.

Newspapers hailed Tuesday's clash as the fourth success by security forces this year in thwarting attacks.

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