RIYADH, Saudi Arabia – The leader of al-Qaida in Saudi Arabia and two men who helped attack the world’s largest oil-processing complex were among five militants killed during police raids in the capital, authorities said Tuesday.
The announcement was the first acknowledgment by Saudi authorities that some attackers had escaped after Friday’s attack on the Abqaiq facility, which processes about two-thirds of the country’s oil for export.
Fahd Faraaj al-Juwair, the kingdom’s most-wanted terror suspect, and two militants who attacked the Abqaiq facility, died in a Monday shootout, the Interior Ministry said in a statement carried by the official Saudi Press Agency. Two other militants also were killed.
Saudi authorities said al-Juwair and slain militants Ibrahim Abdullah Ibrahim al-Mutair and Abdullah Muhia Shlash al-Sulaiti al-Shamari were on the kingdom’s list of most-wanted terrorists issued in June.
The fourth slain militant was identified as Saudi Jaffal Rafea al-Shamari, whose identity has not previously been made public. Authorities said they are still trying to identify a fifth militant killed in what they called a “fierce” but brief gunbattle in eastern Riyadh.
All were sought in connection with the attack, but the authorities did not say which of the five men participated.
Al-Juwair, who was in his mid-30s, was the leader of al-Qaida in Saudi Arabia and a longtime extremist whose two brothers were killed in clashes with Saudi forces in 2004, authorities said.
Saudi officials said a sixth wanted militant was arrested at an undisclosed location in the same part of Riyadh. His name was not made public Tuesday.
Police said they found 11 AK-47 rifles, ammunition, hand grenades, pipe bombs, rocket-propelled grenades and $53,000 in Saudi currency at the scene of the shootout.
Two cars also were found at the scene. One had been used in the Abqaiq attack, the first-ever strike on Saudi Arabia’s vital oil infrastructure.
The Saudi branch of al-Qaida claimed responsibility for the attack, which killed two suicide car bombers identified by the Interior Ministry on Sunday as Abdullah Abdul-Aziz al-Tweijri and Mohammed Saleh al-Gheith.
Both also were on the most-wanted list.
The two bombers in explosives-packed cars traded gunfire with police at a checkpoint before a gate in the first of three fences around the sprawling, heavily guarded complex. One bomber collided with the closed gate, exploding and blowing a hole in the fence.
The second bomber drove through the hole before police opened fire, detonating his car, The guards later died of wounds sustained during the attack, which caused the price of oil on the world markets to jump by more than $2 a barrel.
The Saudi al-Qaida branch warned in an Internet statement that its suicide bombers would strike the oil industry again.
Al-Qaida militants launched a campaign of violence three years ago in Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of group leader
Osama bin Laden.
Saudi security forces have largely had al-Qaida militants on the run for the past year, arresting hundreds of suspects. They killed or captured all but one of the top 26 militants on a most-wanted list issued in December 2003, then issued the second list in June.
Saudi Arabia holds more than 260 billion barrels of proven oil reserves, a quarter of the world’s total.
The kingdom, the world’s largest producer of oil, currently puts out about 9.5 million barrels per day, or 11 percent of global consumption.