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Terrorist Attack Thwarted, says Saudi Arabia - 2003-06-15


Saudi Arabia's interior ministry says it has foiled an imminent terror attack in an overnight raid and gunfight in Mecca, Islam's holiest city. The major security sweep left five suspects and two Saudi security agents dead.

Saudi Arabia's interior ministry said its war on terrorism shifted to the Muslim holy site of Mecca as its forces moved against a group of terrorists preparing an imminent attack. Security officials did not state the intended target of the attack.

Police officers clashed with gunmen late Saturday in a raid on what was described as a bomb-filled, booby-trapped apartment.

Officials say four people were arrested in the sweep, including two Chadians, an Egyptian and a Saudi. The nationalities of the five dead were not given. Police say a number of other suspects were arrested in other locations in Mecca but provided no further details.

Police said they seized 72 homemade bombs in addition to guns, ammunition, and chemicals for use to make bombs.

The hunt for terrorists has stepped up in the kingdom following last month's suicide bombings of three expatriate compounds in the capital, Riyadh, that killed 35 people, including nine Americans.

U.S. and Saudi officials together are investigating the Riyadh bombings and their possible links to the al-Qaida terrorist network responsible for the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.

After criticism from the U.S. that Saudi authorities were acting too slowly against Islamic extremism, and especially after last month's attacks that struck so close to home, officials in the kingdom have increased their commitment to fight terrorism.

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