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At Least 3 Militants Die in Battles with Saudi Police - 2003-11-06

Saudi authorities say two militants blew themselves up, as police tried to arrest them in the Muslim holy city of Mecca, and a third died earlier in a gun battle with police in Riyadh.

Saudi authorities say two suspected Muslim militants blew themselves up to avoid an arrest in Mecca. They were allegedly part of a group planning terror attacks on Muslim pilgrims.

Two of the group's members were killed and another six arrested, after a police raid on their hideout in Mecca last Monday. Saudi authorities at the time said the group had links to the al-Qaida terror network.

Saudi authorities also reported another suspected militant was killed in a clash with police in Riyadh. Interior Ministry officials say eight policemen were wounded in the shootout, which erupted in the neighborhood of Sweidi, where security forces were searching for suspected extremists.

Several of them escaped, but Saudi authorities gave no specifics.

Local media reports Saudi police used a helicopter to fire on fleeing suspects and sealed off the entire Sweidi district. The battle reportedly lasted nearly three hours.

Saudi authorities have cracked down in recent weeks on suspected terrorists, many of whom, they say, are linked to the terror network, al-Qaida. Hundreds of suspected militants have been arrested in the campaign.

In another development, the Iranian ambassador to Riyadh, Ali Asghar Khagi, told Saudi newspaper Al-Riyadh that his government has given the United Nations a list of suspected al-Qaida members, which included 29 Saudis, who were caught in Iran and sent back to Saudi Arabia.