x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Saudi officer dies in Al Qa'eda shoot-out

Security officials say men - two of them dressed as women to hide explosive belts - were planning a suicide bombing mission.

JEDDAH // A Saudi security officer and two al Qa'eda militants were killed yesterday in a shoot-out at a check point in Jazan province near the southern border with Yemen, an interior ministry spokesman said. The officer, Aamer al Shoaish, was shot dead early in the morning when he stopped a car that was carrying three men, two of whom were dressed in women's clothing in order to conceal explosives belts, said spokesman Gen Mansour al Turki.

As the men got out of the car they opened fire on the officer - shooting him in the chest and the head - and the other members of the security forces that were present. Two of the suspects were killed in the ensuing clash and a third arrested. Gen al Turki said the men were members of al Qa'eda and were planning a suicide bomb attack, though he could not say where. He said security forces also found hand grenades and machine guns in the car, as well as chemical materials used in bomb-making.

There have been increasing numbers of security arrests in parts of southern Saudi Arabia as al Qa'eda members who fled to Yemen have re-entered the country. This month, Saudi security forces locked down the city of Samatah, close to the border with Yemen, after arresting five men who were wanted for "security-related issues". Yemen has recently become the base for many al Qa'eda militants who fled Saudi Arabia after a government crackdown in 2006 as the government reacted to several clashes and bombings that were connected to al Qa'eda. Many, however, have returned through the mountain passages that link the two countries.

In August, an al Qa'eda suicide bomber targeted Prince Mohammed bin Naif, the deputy interior minister. The attacker, Abdullah Assiri, a Saudi national, had crossed into the kingdom from Yemen and travelled to Jeddah, where he blew himself up as he approached the prince under the pretence of surrendering as part of an amnesty for militants. Prince Naif survived the attack. Saudi officials have recently expressed concern that al Qa'eda could take advantage of the increasingly tense situation in Yemen, where the government is battling Shiite rebels in areas close to the Saudi border, to smuggle in fighters.

Al Qa'eda militants, including fighters returning from Afghanistan and Iraq, have established sanctuaries in Yemen, particularly in three provinces bordering Saudi known by the media as the "triangle of evil" because of the heavy militant presence. wmahdi@thenational.ae