Saudis Kill Firebrand Cleric

flag of Saudi Arabia
A firebrand cleric who issued fatwas on behalf of an al Qaeda-linked terrorist group in Saudi Arabia was gunned down Wednesday in a shootout in the capital, Riyadh, an official said, in a clash that also killed a policeman and injured six other security personnel.

Abdullah Mohammed Rashid al-Roshoud, believed to be the chief ideologue for al Qaeda in the region, died in the clash in the al-Quds neighborhood in eastern Riyadh, a security official told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

The clash followed last week's amnesty offer made to wanted militants by Saudi Arabia's King Fahd, who said fugitives who surrender to police within one month would not face the death penalty. But they would still face trial.

Al-Roshoud, who has called for holy war against the Saudi royal family and Western interests in the Gulf, is the latest high-ranking member of an al Qaeda-linked group killed in Saudi Arabia's crackdown on homegrown militants following a spate on

perrorist attacks on Saudi soil.

A one-time high school teacher of Islamic studies, al-Roshoud was known for writing statements on the Islamic Internet sites and issuing fatwas justifying terrorist attacks against the Saudi government and foreign influences in the kingdom.

His death takes the number of militants, whose names appear on a list of 26 most wanted terrorists, killed to at least 10, including the June 18 slaying of Abdulaziz al-Moqrin, al Qaeda's leader in Saudi Arabia.

At least one of the most wanted militants was believed to be wounded and arrested earlier this month, while another — Othman Hadi Al Maqboul al-Amri, No. 21 on the list of 26 most wanted — surrendered to Saudi authorities on Monday following Fahd's announcement.

An Interior Ministry statement said one militant and one policeman were killed in Wednesday's clash and six other security personnel were injured. Three bystanders, including one Saudi citizen, were also wounded in the attack that occurred at 3:30 p.m. local time (1330 GMT).

Earlier, an official said two militants were killed. The difference could not be immediately reconciled.

The Interior Ministry statement, carried by the official Saudi Press Agency, said police first noticed several suspicious people carrying weapons as they left a safe house also used for making explosives and got into a car in the northern Riyadh suburb of King Fahd.

Security forces called on the men to stop, the statement said, but the men refused and shot at the police, who returned fire.

An official told the AP that a car chase ensued through Riyadh suburbs until a gun battle broke out in a street in the eastern neighborhood of al-Quds. Another militant fled the scene in a stolen car.

Security forces closed exits to the neighborhood and a large number of police cars and ambulances converged on the scene, over which police helicopters hovered, witnesses said.

State-run Saudi TV showed footage of a car, believed to have been the one driven by the militants, parked in the middle of a road with at least one bullet hole through its front window.

During the past year, Saudi Arabia has been rocked by suicide bombings, gunbattles and kidnappings targeting foreign workers. The attacks have been blamed on al Qaeda and sympathizers of the anti-Western terror network headed by Saudi dissident Osama bin Laden.

The most recent attack was the June 12 kidnapping of American engineer Paul M. Johnson, Jr., who was decapitated by his captors after the government rejected a demand to release all detained militants in the oil-rich country.