x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Al Qaeda rebels kill 2 Saudi border guards

The militant movement's Yemeni branch, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (Aqap), has several Saudis in leadership roles and has sworn to bring down the kingdom's ruling family.

RIYADH // Al Qaeda militants who had been released from Saudi prisons killed two Saudi border guards while trying to cross into Yemen yesterday before being captured.

The militant movement's Yemeni branch, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (Aqap), has several Saudis in leadership roles and has sworn to bring down the kingdom's ruling family.

Saudi Arabia has played an important role in foiling attacks planned by Aqap against international airliners, western countries have said.

Saudi authorities have arrested thousands of suspected militants over the past decade, crushing an Al Qaeda bombing campaign inside the country from 2003 to 2006, and putting hundreds of them through a rehabilitation programme.

But several graduates of the programme have since emerged as leaders of Aqap in Yemen.

An interior ministry statement said a group of 10 Saudis and one Yemeni ambushed a Saudi border patrol just before dawn in the Sharoura sector of Najran Province, killing the two guards.

Four of the group were seriously wounded in the ambush, according to the statement issued by the interior ministry security spokesman and carried by the Saudi Press Agency.

It said identity papers belonging to the Saudi nationals showed they had all been previously jailed for crimes relating to "crimes and activities of the deviant group", as Al Qaeda is officially described. The ministry added that they had been tried to cross into Yemen, where Aqap has established a foothold.

This year Saudi Arabia announced it had detained two Al Qaeda cells in Riyadh and Jeddah that had planned bomb attacks in the kingdom.

Saudi Arabia fought a brief war on its southern border with Yemen in 2009 against the country's Houthi rebel movement. That conflict began when Houthis ambushed a Saudi patrol, killing two soldiers.

Saudi border guards have in the past also clashed with smugglers along the long, porous desert frontier.