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Last Updated: Wednesday, 4 June, 2003, 12:24 GMT 13:24 UK
Saudis 'united' against militants
Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah (left) meets President Bush at Arab summit in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt
Despite the smiles Saudi-US ties are strained over Islamist activities

Saudi Arabia insists that it is trying to destroy violent Islamic militant groups blamed for suicide attacks on Western targets in the kingdom and elsewhere.

The Saudi Foreign Minister, Prince Saud al-Faisal, told the BBC on Wednesday that the suicide bombers had "united everybody in Saudi Arabia against their efforts".

"However marginal these people are they are to be got rid of. We cannot live as a society based on the principles of Islam with this violent few doing their murderous work in our midst."

A suspected militant shot dead by Saudi police four days ago was a key member of Osama Bin Laden's al-Qaeda network in the Gulf, according to Islamists quoted by the Saudi-owned Asharq al-Awsat newspaper.

'Bin Laden letter'

The militant - Youssef Saleh al-Ayiri - ran al-Neda, a website believed to be operated by al-Qaeda, and was an aide to Saudi-born Bin Laden when the two were in Afghanistan, one of the sources said.

Ayiri was reportedly among 19 suspects wanted for planning terror attacks and for alleged links to al-Qaeda.

Al-Hamra compound in Riyadh after bomb attack
Saudi Arabia is hunting accomplices of the Riyadh bombers
The Saudi newspaper al-Watan reported on Tuesday that a bloodstained letter signed by Bin Laden had been found on Ayiri's body.

The letter reportedly included greetings for the Muslim Eid al-Fitr festival and was dated 9 December, 2002.

The Saudi Interior Ministry said police shot dead one suspect and captured another after they hurled grenades at a police patrol on Saturday night.

According to Saudi press reports, two policemen were also killed in the clash in the Hail region, north-west of the capital, Riyadh.

Ayiri was wanted in connection with suicide attacks on Western targets in Riyadh last month, in which more than 30 people were killed.

US pressure

Saudi authorities blamed al-Qaeda for the bombings.

The Saudi authorities have also published a list of names of people they say were arrested in Medina last week on suspicion of planning terrorist acts.

BBC Arab affairs editor Magdi Abdelhadi says the Saudis appear anxious to counter accusations, mainly from Washington, that the kingdom has not done enough rein in Islamic militants.

Saudi-US relations have soured since the 11 September 2001 suicide attacks in New York and Washington.

Saudi Arabia is the birthplace of 15 of the 19 men suspected of carrying out the suicide attacks.

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