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US Praises Saudi Arabia for Action Against Alleged Hostage-Takers - 2004-06-19


The U.S. Ambassador in Riyadh Saturday praised Saudi Arabia's authorities after the killing of four wanted militants involved in the beheading of an American hostage. But he cautions that the battle against terrorism will be a long one.

Saudi Arabia showed photographs on national television Saturday of four terrorists on the government's wanted list who were killed in a firefight with security forces. Among the pictures was the body of the alleged al-Qaida leader in Saudi Arabia, Abdulaziz al-Muqrin who, Saudi officials say, was killed in the shootout.

Abdulaziz al-Muqrin is thought to be responsible for the beheading of American Paul Johnson on Friday.

U.S. Ambassador in Riyadh James Oberwetter praised the Saudi government for its work in killing the four militants.

"Good work is being done by the Saudis, but it will be some time before we achieve a comfort level that the situation has returned to normal," he said. "We look forward to that day, but it's some time away."

He cautioned Westerners that Saudi Arabia, "remains dangerous." The United States, Britain and other countries have advised their citizens in the country to leave.

Editorials in Saturday's edition of the Arab News say a mass exodus of foreigners from the kingdom would show that the terrorists are winning.

Something ambassador Oberwetter said Saturday was not true.

"I reject categorically any insinuation that the terrorists are winning," the ambassador said. "They may achieve some small victories over individuals, but they will not prevail over the force of civilization."

For it's part, the Saudi government has acknowledged that security is still lacking, but says thousands of security personnel are being trained and hundreds of millions of dollars are being spent on state-of-the-art equipment to aid law enforcement in its attempt to crackdown on militant groups.

Senior officials at the U.S. embassy agree that security has become the top priority for the Saudi government. However, they say until that security apparatus is completely functional, nowhere in Saudi Arabia is safe for foreigners.

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