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Last Updated: Thursday, 18 August 2005, 18:56 GMT 19:56 UK
'Al-Qaeda leader' killed in Saudi
Saudi security men stand guard outside the house where a deadly shootout occurred in the Nasif district, north of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia has suffered a wave of Islamist violence
A man believed to be the leader of al-Qaeda in Saudi Arabia has been killed during a police raid in Medina, the Saudi interior ministry says.

Saleh Awfi, one of the most wanted men in the country, was found in a hideout near the city's mosque.

Saudi Arabia has been trying to quell a wave of violence by militants believed to be linked to al-Qaeda.

At least two people were also killed in separate clashes in the capital, Riyadh, and Medina.

"Investigators were able to prove through verification procedures that one of the two killed is the wanted Saleh Awfi," the interior ministry statement says.

Gen Mansour al-Turki, a spokesman for the interior ministry, told the BBC that Mr Awfi was killed alongside another, unidentified person during the clashes in Medina.

Bitter battle

Mr Awfi is believed to have taken over the leadership of the Saudi wing of al-Qaeda last year.

He is one of just two figures remaining on a list of most wanted people drawn up by Saudi authorities in 2003. All the others have either been captured or killed.

The BBC's Middle East analyst, Roger Hardy, says that if Mr Awfi's identity is confirmed, it will help to vindicate Saudi forces' claims that they are gaining the upper hand in their bitter battle with Islamic extremists.

Since May 2003, militants - many loyal to Saudi-born dissident Osama Bin Laden - have frequently targeted Westerners in suicide bombings and kidnappings.

More than 140 people have been killed and over 100 militants have died in the government's crackdown.

The struggle to contain the violence is one of the most pressing challenges facing the country's new monarch, King Abdullah.

Earlier this month, the United States closed its diplomatic missions in the kingdom for two days because of security threats. Britain and Australia also warned about potential attacks.

See where the police raid took place

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