Khobar attack: 22 dead, including nine hostages; Bodies of foreigners mutilated
Saudi security forces on Sunday stormed into a building Sunday morning at a residential complex in Khobar where dozens of hostages were held by gunmen since Saturday and freed them.
The rescue operation started after Saudi commandos were dropped onto the rooftop from helicopters.
A survivor told AFP that nine hostages were executed during the overnight standoff with Saudi security forces.
Jordanian computer engineer Nijar Hijazin said he was among the hostages who were pulled from the ceiling of the compound. He said seven Asians, a Swede and an Italian had their throats slit during the night by the kidnappers.
"The nine had their throats cut by the kidnappers when they tried to escape at night by the stairs," said Hijazin.
Nail Al-Jubeir, a spokesman for the Saudi Embassy in Washington, told CNN that seven Americans were rescued early Sunday -- before the helicopters landed -- and two of them had been injured.
Several Lebanese hostages were freed at the request of that country's ambassador in Riyadh.
Saudi security forces initially tried storming the complex either late Saturday or early Sunday, but stopped the operation, after some policemen were injured, a Saudi official said.
They tried to convince the gunmen to surrender and free the hostages before again using force. Saudi officials on Sunday denied a report published the Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Watan, saying that U.S. marines had helped Saudi security men in surrounding the residential compound before storming it.
Saudi sources said that the injured and wanted leader of the attackers was arrested and three others, one of them wounded, escaped.
An official source at the Saudi ministry of interior announced Sunday that the attack in Al-Khobar resulted in killing 22 persons of various nationalities and wounding 25 others. The statement pointed out that the dead included 8 Indians, 3 Saudis, 1 Briton, 2 Sri Lankans, 1 American, 1 Egyptian child, 1 Swede, 1 Italian, 1 South African, and 3 Filipinos.
The U.S. State Department confirmed one American was among the dead during Saturday's shooting attack claimed by al Qaeda.
Western diplomatic sources said a British citizen also died. In London, the Foreign Office confirmed Sunday that oil executive Michael Hamilton died during the shooting and urged British citizens to avoid all but essential travel to Saudi Arabia.
While Saudi officials estimated the number of attackers at four, witnesses on the scene have suggested it was higher since three different sites were attacked within an hour.
The first location hit was the Khobar headquarters of APICORP (Arab Petroleum Investments Corporation). Six people were killed, including a 10-year-old Egyptian boy whose father worked there.
Two Saudi security guards, a British citizen, a Pakistani and a Filipino were also listed among the dead, according to Arab News.
A few minutes later, an Indian citizen caught in the crossfire of a highway shootout was shot in the neck and died.
About 30 minutes later, attackers stormed the Petroleum Center headquarters about three kilometers away where they killed at least four people, including an American.
The attackers then moved about 800 meters away to the Saad Center -- a residential building which is part of Oasis compound -- where they took the hostages and raised their barricades.
Several Saudi newspapers reported Sunday that the attackers threw at least one body from the building where they were holed up and had mutilated some of the bodies of those they killed.
Al Qaeda claims
Meanwhile, a man identified as al-Qaeda's chief in Saudi Arabia claimed responsibility for al Khobar attack in an audiotape posted on the Internet Sunday.
A speaker who identifies himself as Abdul Aziz al-Moqrin, described attackers "slaughtering" hostages.
The purported al-Moqrin recording ended with what appeared to be sounds from the attack. Shots could be heard, and men were shouting: "Open this door quickly!"
"The holy warriors didn't leave any of the hostages alive. All those infidels and Crusaders who were in their hands were liquidated," it said. (Albawaba.com)
© 2004 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)