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Last Updated: Tuesday, 6 September 2005, 15:18 GMT 16:18 UK
Saudis storm 'militant hide-out'
Saudi security officer watches besieged villa in Dammam
The siege of the Dammam house began on Sunday
Saudi security forces have stormed a building where suspected Islamic militants have been holed up in the eastern Saudi Arabian city of Dammam.

It comes after a three-day gun battle that led to the deaths of five alleged militants and four police officers. Ten officers were wounded.

Witnesses said gunfire and blasts could be heard for hours as forces moved in on the villa but all was quiet by noon.

Security officials said the building was now under their control.

Ambulances and civil defence vehicles were seen entering the area, and security forces were said to be checking for any unexploded devices.

"Charred remains" had been found at the site, a statement on state television said without giving details of how many militants might have been killed in the raid.

Residents had been allowed to return to their homes, said a correspondent at the scene for Saudi's Al-Ikhbariyah TV.

'Wanted militant'

Earlier, security forces said three suspected militants and two policemen had been killed in overnight clashes at the scene.

The deaths brought to five the number of suspected militants killed in the fighting that began on Sunday. A police officer also died in earlier clashes.

The clashes began when security forces targeted two militants they said were wanted by the authorities.

One of the alleged militants was killed in the fighting on Sunday and another died later in hospital, sources said.

Zaid al-Samari, a 31-year-old Saudi, was named in local media reports as one of the two killed.

He is thought be on a list of 36 most wanted people sought in relation to several attacks in the kingdom since May 2003.

The US temporarily shut its consulate in neighbouring Dhahran city as a result of the stand-off in Dammam. Both cities lie on the east coast close to huge oilfields.

Campaign

The Saudi security forces have been engaged in a campaign against Islamic militants for the last two years.

Last month, the interior ministry said a man believed to be the leader of al-Qaeda in the kingdom was killed during a police raid in Medina.

Saleh Awfi, one of the country's most wanted men, reportedly died in a shoot-out with forces after a series of raids in three cities, including the capital Riyadh.

Since May 2003, militants have frequently targeted Westerners and Arab residents in suicide bombings and kidnappings.

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


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