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Last Updated: Monday, 31 May, 2004, 12:49 GMT 13:49 UK
Gunmen hunted 'infidel' Westerners
Security men stand in front of a housing complex near a burnt-out car, 29 May 2004
The gunmen went on a shooting spree looking for non-Muslims
Survivors from the day-long hostage siege in the Saudi Arabian city of Khobar have been describing how the gunmen went from house to house searching for foreigners.

The gunmen went on a rampage through compounds in the city, searching for non-Muslim victims. In all, 22 people died.

"Are you Muslim or Christian? We don't want to kill Muslims," the gunmen were quoted as saying to several witnesses.

A Lebanese woman said she hid in her apartment with her four-year-old son for five hours after being held briefly by two of the gunmen.

Orora Naoufal told the Associated Press news agency that the young men asked her where the "infidels" and foreigners were, and whether she was Muslim or Christian.

"'I am Lebanese and there are no foreigners here," she told the gunmen.

She said the gunmen then told her: "Go convert to Islam, and cover up and go back to your country."

'Lecture on Islam'

An Iraqi-American engineer described how he heard gunfire as he was leaving the Oasis compound on Saturday morning on the way to work. He rushed back to his home and took his wife and two children to a neighbour's house.

It was an ugly night - We were very very scared
Abul Salam al-Hakawati
Abu Hashem, 45, said he then went looking for a security guard and came across four young Saudi men.

At first he thought they were guards but quickly realised his mistake.

They wanted proof that he was a Muslim and asked to see his residency papers, Abu Hashem said.

"Then, they said, 'You are American,' and I told them I am an American Muslim. They said, 'We do not kill Muslims,'" and apologised for breaking into his home.

"They gave me a lecture on Islam and said they were defending their country and ridding it of infidels," he said.

He said that while talking to them he saw the body of a Western cook who had been shot dead.

"The encounter was very painful because these guys had different attitudes," he said.

"They have one attitude toward Muslims and another for non-Muslims. Islam does not sanction this."

Search for Westerners

Another resident of the Oasis compound told AP that that he and his wife and two-year-old son hid upstairs in their house as they heard gunmen searching the floor below.

Abul Salam al-Hakawati, 38, said he heard one of them say: "This is a Muslim house" - apparently seeing the framed Koranic verses on the wall.

He said a young man carrying a machine gun and carrying an ammunition belt came upstairs and saw him.

He said the gunman told him: "We only want to hurt Westerners. Can you tell us where we can find them here?"

Mr Hakawati said he told the man that he had only just moved to the area.

A Jordanian software engineer who was in Khobar on a business trip told reporters that he and a friend hid in one of the hotel rooms throughout the hostage drama.

Niazar Hijazeen, a Christian, said that when the gunmen came to the room he told them he was Muslim and held up a copy of his friend's Koran.

The two spent most of the rest of the day and night hiding in the bathroom, keeping quiet. Occasionally they switched on the television, but put it under the bed and kept the sound low.

"It was an ugly night," said Mr Hijazeen. "We were very very scared."




SEE ALSO:
Khobar killings horrify Arabic press
31 May 04 |  Middle East
Hostage compound 'for top bosses'
30 May 04 |  Middle East
Eyewitness reports from Saudi city
29 May 04 |  Middle East
Saudi Arabia's 'war on terror'
29 May 04 |  Middle East
Concern grows over Saudi stability
13 May 04 |  Middle East
Country profile: Saudi Arabia
29 May 04 |  Country profiles


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