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Eight Die In Saudi Terror Raid

Six alleged militants armed with guns and hand grenades and two policemen were killed Monday in a firefight north of the capital, the Ministry of Interior said.

The shootout, which came amid an anti-terror crackdown in the kingdom following deadly bombings in May, took place in al-Qassim, 220 miles north of the capital, Riyadh, state-run TV quoted a Ministry of Interior statement as saying.

According to the statement, police raided a farm believed to harbor "wanted men." Six of the wanted men were killed and one was injured. Two policemen were killed and eight injured.

The statement said police surrounded the farm and secured women and children first. Police asked the gunmen to turn themselves in but the men refused. The firefight followed, with the suspects using guns and hand grenades, according to the statement.

Police arrested four people for harboring the wanted alleged militants, the statement added.

Saudi Arabia has launched a series of terror raids after May 12 suicide bombings in Riyadh killed 25 people and nine attackers. Eight Americans were among the dead.

The raids also followed repeated calls from the U.S. government for Saudi Arabia to do more to curb Islamic militancy following the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks — 15 of the 19 Sept. 11 hijackers were Saudi.

A U.S. Congress report on Sept. 11 released last week accused Saudi Arabia of not doing enough to counter terrorism.

Blacked out in the report is a 28-page section that the officials say criticizes the Saudi government and details its lack of interest in tackling Muslim extremism.

The unclassified version of the report also said that one suspected facilitator known to investigators but still at large paid many of the expenses of two Sept. 11 hijackers and "had access to seemingly unlimited funding from Saudi Arabia." It did not say if Saudi government funds were involved.

Saudi officials have rejected those conclusions, which echo concerns going back to the 1996 bombing of the Khobar Towers in which 19 U.S. servicemen died. U.S. investigators have said that Saudi officials did not fully cooperate with their probe into that attack.

One raid during the current crackdown, announced last week, yielded the arrests of 16 suspects linked to al Qaeda — the terror network blamed for the Riyadh bombings and the Sept. 11 attacks — and the seizure of a buried arsenal that included 20 tons of bomb-making chemicals, detonators, rocket-propelled grenades and rifles.

In that raid, security forces were able to stop plots against a number of vital installations and sites, an unidentified ministry official told the official Saudi Press Agency.

The May bombing attacks, and similar violence in Morocco a few days later, contributed to the United States increasing its terror alert status to "high" for several weeks. Last week, the State Department announced that it had authorized "the return of all employees and family members to the U.S. Embassy and Consulates in Saudi Arabia."

However, the department advised, "U.S. citizens are reminded of remaining security concerns and the potential for further terrorist attacks in Saudi Arabia."

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