A massive manhunt is under way in Saudi Arabia for three men who Saudi officials
say killed 22 people after taking dozens of foreigners hostage at the offices
of major Western oil firms in the eastern Saudi city of Khobar.
Three suspected members of the terror group al-Qaida managed to escape Sunday
following a hostage standoff that began Saturday at the offices of the Al-Khobar
Petroleum Center building, located about 400 kilometers northeast of the Saudi
Arabian capital, Riyadh.
The standoff ended Sunday when Saudi commandos stormed the complex, but not
before 22 civilians, most of them foreign, were killed and more than two dozen
others were wounded.
A total of about 50 people were being held hostage and about 240 other people
in the building were safely evacuated. Several state security officers were
also believed killed during the attack.
Saudi authorities said the leader of the group, described as one of the kingdom's
most wanted terrorists, was taken into custody. Three others managed to escape.
The siege began Saturday when gunmen wearing military clothes opened fire
on the complex before storming the offices and employees homes.
An Internet statement purported to be from al-Qaida terrorists claimed responsibility
for the attack and vowed to rid the kingdom of what it called infidels.
Earlier this month, a similar attack was carried out at an oil facility in
the Red Sea town of Yanbu. And, according to a journalist with the Arab News
in Jeddah, Mahmud Ahmed, Saudi citizens are becoming increasingly upset with
acts of terror in the kingdom.
"Let me tell you, they are very angry. Extremely, extremely, extremely angry
because, you know, Saudis are angry because Saudi Arabia is known to be a safe
place," says Mr. Ahmed. "And now these terrorist operations are just scaring
local Saudis, and they are very angry about it."
Last week in an Internet statement, a top Saudi al-Qaida leader, Abdulaziz
al-Murqrin, called for urban warfare to topple the royal family and vowed that
the remainder of this year would be bloody and miserable for Saudi Arabia.