THE terrorists who escaped after killing 22 people in Saudi Arabia at the weekend were holding human shields to ensure their escape.
It is believed the three men, still on the run, escaped after making good on their threat to execute hostages in the Oasis housing compound in the eastern oil city of Khobar.
A hostage heard the gunmen shouting they would release their captives if the security forces let them go.
“The security forces refused at the beginning but then apparently relented,” he said. “There was a kind of deal reached, although some hostages had already been killed.”
A further source said one European was decapitated, his head thrown out of the window, and a kidnapper threatened to shoot a baby in front of its mother.
Sources believe the kidnappers escaped shortly before Saudi commandos landed on the building.
They hijacked two cars during their getaway.
A fourth militant, described as the ringleader, was captured and wounded, although it was unclear how seriously.
“It’s believed the three left by foot and didn’t hijack any vehicle until they were outside the compound,” the source said. “To leave, they had to puncture three cordons of defence.”
The first was immediately around the residential compound, the second around the perimeter and the last, and biggest, was two blocks back with armoured personal carriers and police cars. The area was sealed off on three sides with the sea on the fourth.
Once outside the compound, the terrorists hijacked two cars after changing out of their military fatigues into black track suits. Shots were fired at a police cordon as one of the vehicles sped away.
The official death toll from the 25-hour siege was eight Indians, three Filipinos, three Saudis, two Sri Lankans, an American, a Briton, an Italian, a Swede, a South African and a 10-year-old Egyptian.
Twenty-five people of various nationalities were injured, and security forces evacuated 242 people from the Oasis.
Despite the escape, Saudi Interior Ministry officials insisted the operation was a success, saying 41 hostages were freed. A Western diplomat described the attackers as “really smart guys”, and said the Saudi security forces did “a pretty good job”.