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Last Updated: Thursday, 3 July, 2003, 18:22 GMT 19:22 UK
Saudi bomb suspect 'dies in gunfight'
A Saudi police officer guards a bomb scene in Riyadh, 15 May 2003
Saudi authorities are hunting those behind the bombing
A man thought to have masterminded a series of suicide bombings in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, in May has been killed during a police operation to arrest him, Saudi officials have said.

They initially said the suspect, Turki Nasser al-Dandani, had blown himself up after being cornered in the northern province of al-Jawf.

But a later statement by the Saudi interior ministry said Mr Dandani and three of his companions died in a gunfight with security personnel.

Mr Dandani, 27, a suspected al-Qaeda member, had topped a list of 19 wanted terror suspects issued by Saudi authorities just days before the triple suicide attacks on the Western compounds in Riyadh on 12 May.

Dozens of people were arrested following the attacks, which killed 35 people including nine bombers.

Number two on the wanted list, Ali Abdul Rahman al-Ghamdi, gave himself up in June.

The prominent UK-based Saudi dissident Saad al-Fagih told the BBC that Mr Dandani had been cornered in a mosque in the town of Skaka by Saudi security forces following a 10-day chase.

Mr Fagih quoted witnesses as saying helicopters and special forces arrived to act as reinforcements and began firing on the mosque from all sides.

He said that after his three companions were killed, Mr Dandani ran from the mosque and killed at least one Saudi officer before dying in a hail of bullets.

Mother's appeal

The Riyadh bombings are thought to have been carried out by Saudi-born Osama Bin Laden's al-Qaeda network.

Ali Abdul Rahman al-Ghamdi
Number two suspect al-Ghamdi handed himself in
The Saudi authorities are said to be co-operating closely with US investigators, after criticism that they were not doing enough to fight Islamic radicals.

Mr Dandani's death is believed to be a major blow to al-Qaeda's operations in Saudi Arabia.

Last week, his mother publicly urged her son to hand himself in to the authorities.

"I appeal to Turki to give himself up like Ghamdi did... If you want to see me happy and satisfied, please hurry up and turn yourself in," said Eida Raji Saleh al-Balhoud.

The BBC's Frank Gardner
"This will be quite a major blow to al-Qaeda"


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