Saudi security forces captured two wanted militants, injured one and killed another man who was with them, early yesterday morning in a gunbattle in a residential district of Jeddah.
A woman passerby was caught in the cross-fire and was also killed in the shootout.
According to Brig. Gen. Mansour Al-Turki, a spokesman for the Ministry of the Interior, “a man wanted for security-related matters was captured after being wounded…Two of his companions were arrested. A man who was accompanying the wanted militant was killed in the shootout.”
The security forces had received information that a group of wanted men was in an apartment in Al-Rabwah District. At six o?clock in the morning, Saudi forces surrounded the two-story building, closed off streets and nearby schools.
According to eyewitnesses, the security forces ordered the men in the apartment to surrender. The men refused and the gunbattle began which, again according to witnesses, continued for half an hour.
The battle ended with the death of Saad Al-Youbi, the injury of Ibrahim Al-Youbi and the surrender of two of their companions. Saad Al-Youbi, who is said to be a member of the security forces, was at home in his apartment when the other men came to him asking for shelter from the police.
As a result of the gunbattle, five policemen were wounded and taken to Erfan Hospital. Two of them were said to be in critical condition.
In addition, twelve other people – policemen and bystanders – were injured and taken to King Fahd Hospital. The policemen were taken to Erfan Hospital by Saleh Al-Zahrani, a local resident, who transported the five injured policemen in his own vehicle.
Among the 12 injured people taken to hospital were Yousef Al-Fazi and his four-year-old son. As Al-Fazi and his family were attempting to leave the apartment building, a bullet killed his wife though he and his son escaped with minor injuries.
Subayan Al-Fazi, another eyewitness and a tenant of the building, said he was awakened by gunfire at 6 a.m. and heard the security forces ordering the terrorists to surrender and the other occupants to evacuate the building.
“I ran down along with my family; our hands were up in the air and we were shouting that we were ordinary citizens who had nothing to do with terrorism.” Abu Yousuf, a Sudanese tenant in the same building, also managed to escape with his family and took them to a relative?s nearby house.
Following the raid, the US Consulate General in Jeddah announced the postponement of its Independence Day celebration, originally scheduled for March 14. Traditionally the US Embassy and consulates in the Kingdom hold the celebrations in the spring or fall rather than in July due to the extremely hot weather in Saudi Arabia.
“We are taking this precaution in light of the raid by Saudi security forces in northern Jeddah earlier today,” Consul General Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley said. “The consulate will remain open for normal business.”
Interior Ministry spokesman Gen. Al-Turki ruled out any connection between an American security warning last week and the incident in Jeddah yesterday. “Security operations have been ongoing since terror cells were first discovered in 2003,” he said, adding that the security forces had raided the site acting on “instant information” concerning the whereabouts of a wanted militant.
Yesterday’s clash was the first major incident since Jan. 9 when four wanted militants were killed in a shootout with security forces in a desert area of the Kingdom. Twenty-two months of violence in the country, blamed on Al-Qaeda sympathizers, has killed 90 civilians, according to official figures.
Thirty-nine members of the security forces and 92 militants have also died. Hundreds more have been wounded in the attacks, many of which have targeted foreigners. Damage to property and installations from the attacks exceeds SR1 billion ($266 million).