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03 Jul 2003 15:59
A top militant and al-Qaeda member wanted in connection with the Riyadh suicide bombings killed himself on Thursday, an interior ministry official said.
Turki Nasser al-Dandani blew himself up in circumstances not immediately clear in the northern province of al-Jawf, 900km north of the capital Riyadh, on Thursday morning, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The Dubai-based television Al-Arabiya reported al-Dandani killed himself with two other militants after being cornered by police in al-Jawf. The satellite channel did not identify the other casualties nor did it give sources.
Al-Dandani, a member of the al-Qaeda terror group led by Osama bin Laden, was being pursued for his alleged involvement in the suicide bombings of Westerners’ housing compounds in Riyadh on May 12, which killed 25 bystanders.
He became the most wanted man in Saudi Arabia after last week’s arrest of the suspected mastermind of the attacks, Ali Abd al-Rahman al-Faqasi al-Ghamdi.
Al-Ghamdi surrendered on June 26 at the home of Deputy Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Nayaf.
Interior Minister Prince Nayef said then that “some important suspects” were still at large, and al-Dandani’s name was the foremost mentioned in news reports.
Al-Dandani was the No.
US counterterrorism officials in Washington predicted that al-Ghamdi’s arrest would severely hamper al-Qaeda’s operations in Saudi Arabia, and al-Dandani’s death is likely to further diminish the group’s capacity.
The kingdom is the birthplace of al-Qaeda leader bin Laden, and home to 15 of the 19 hijackers who took part in the September 11 2001 attacks on the United States.
Saudi authorities have detained at least 125 people since the May 12 attacks in a major sweep that has seen armed police manning checkpoints in major cities, checking identity papers and searching cars.
Last month, police raided an apartment in Mecca where they found members of an alleged terror cell who were allegedly planning to carry out attacks in the city, Islam’s holiest.
Prince Nayef said last month that he thought al-Qaeda was involved in the Riyadh suicide bombings, in which nine assailants blew up vehicles at housing compounds for expatriates.
“I think it is al-Qaeda [who executed the attacks] and there might be other [terror] organisations who helped or worked closely in the attacks,” Prince Nayef told the state-controlled Saudi newspaper Okaz.
The prince said this week that among the detainees are several other people linked to al-Qaeda, men who returned from Afghanistan, foreign nationals and at least five women. - Sapa-AP
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