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Car Bombers Target Saudi Security Units

Nine Attackers Are Killed In Gun Battles With Police

Associated Press
Thursday, December 30, 2004; Page A16

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia, Dec. 29 -- Extremists set off bombs and battled with police in the Saudi capital Wednesday night, leaving nine attackers and one bystander dead as the insurgents signaled they would keep up attacks despite the kingdom's crackdown on al Qaeda.

A car bomb was detonated by remote control near the Interior Ministry in central Riyadh -- killing a bystander, according to Saudi television -- followed soon after by an explosion when two suicide attackers tried to bomb a troop recruitment center.

Saudi police examine debris caused by a car bomb explosion near the Interior Ministry in Riyadh. (AP)

The gunmen who set off the ministry blast fled, then engaged in a gun battle with police in northern Riyadh in which seven attackers were killed and a number of officers were injured, police said.

The attacks came two weeks after al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden called on his followers to focus attacks on his homeland. While damage to the Interior Ministry was minor, it was a bold assault on the government body at the center of Saudi Arabia's fight against Islamic extremists.

Prince Ahmed bin Abdel Aziz, the deputy interior minister, told Saudi television that the attackers were all Saudis.

The violence sparked a jump in oil prices in afternoon trading in New York, helping push the price of a barrel of light crude up nearly $2, to $43.64.

The first explosion went off around 8:30 p.m. near the Interior Ministry, a huge modern high-rise. Two attackers set off a car bomb by remote control in a traffic tunnel near the ministry, police said. A limousine driver was killed, Saudi TV reported.

Half an hour later, two suicide bombers tried to drive into a troop recruitment center about five miles away but came under fire from police and set off their explosives prematurely. The two bombers died, but there were no other reports of casualties.

The two attackers behind the ministry blast, apparently joined by accomplices, later fought with police in a northern district of the capital. The gunmen, armed with automatic weapons and grenades, holed up in a building and were killed while fighting with officers who surrounded them, police said. An Interior Ministry official said several policemen were wounded.

The explosions took place when few employees were at the ministry or the recruitment center. Past attacks, including some claimed by al Qaeda, appeared designed to maximize casualties but drew heavy criticism when many of the dead were Arab and Muslim.

Early Wednesday, a man was killed in Riyadh after tossing a bomb and shooting at security agents, a security official said. On Tuesday, another suspect and a bystander were killed in a shootout in the same Riyadh neighborhood, an Interior Ministry official said.

The biggest recent attack occurred on Dec. 6, when men said to belong to al Qaeda's Saudi branch stormed the U.S. Consulate in Jiddah, killing nine people. Ten days later, a purported bin Laden audiotape praised the attack.

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