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Leading al-Qaida Militant Reportedly Killed in Saudi Gun Battle


Saudi authorities say one of the country's 26 most wanted militants was shot and killed during a gun battle with police Monday. Authorities say the suspect is believed to be a leading al-Qaida operative.

The Monday afternoon shootout occurred in a residential district of the Saudi capital.

Saudi police say two suspected Islamic militants died in the exchange of gunfire. One of them, police said, was Yemeni Khaled Ali bin Hajj, who was third on the list of 26 most wanted Islamic militants in Saudi Arabia.

Saudi authorities say Khalid Hajj was an al-Qaida leader for Saudi Arabia and the rest of the Gulf region.

So far, four of the 26 most wanted Islamic militants in the kingdom have been killed or taken into custody.

Some Middle Eastern experts say it is unclear whether the arrests or deaths of militant leaders is having a significant impact.

An expert on fundamentalism at the al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies in Cairo, Hala Mustafa, says terror is the foundation of al-Qaida.

"If any leader of al-Qaida, or any of these militant groups, are killed or captured, for example, I don't think it will have a real impact or direct impact on these members, so that they will quit the same actions, or they will quit resorting to violence or to militancy, because this is their belief," she said. "And this whole political project of al-Qaida is built or formed on this militancy. So I don't think it will stop them."

Ms. Mustafa says the most effective way to stop acts of terror is to deny terrorist groups access to funding.

Following Monday's shootout in Riyadh, police said they retrieved machine guns, pistols, hand grenades and more than $135,000 in cash from the vehicle the two suspects were driving.

The suspects were believed to have had links with suicide bombings in the Saudi capital last year, which killed more than 50 people and injured hundreds of others.

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