Saudi policeman killed in clash with hostage-taker

A Saudi policeman was killed in a clash with a man who took three workers hostage near Riyadh, the state news agency SPA reported Monday.

RIYADH // A Saudi security officer was killed in an operation to free three foreign labourers taken hostage by a gunman in Riyadh.

“An unknown man carrying an automatic weapon took three labourers hostage near Al Hamoud mosque ... and threatened to shoot passersby,” according to the official Saudi Press Agency on Monday.

Saudi police said the attacker seized the workers on Sunday evening and opened fire when surrounded by security forces.

Police were able to free the hostages after a heavy exchange of gunfire, which eventually wounded and captured the gunman.

A civilian and a member of the security forces were also injured in the shoot-out.

Security officials did not disclose the identity of the attacker, possible motives for the attack or the nationality of the hostages.

Also on Sunday, a Saudi policeman was shot and killed in the eastern town of Al Awamiya by an unidentified assailant.

The town is heavily populated by minority Saudi Shiites and is the hometown of revered Shiite cleric Nimr Al Nimr, an outspoken government critic who was sentenced to death in October for inciting violence and sectarian strife – charges which he denies and which have outraged his supporters.

Al Awamiya, just west of Dammam city on the Gulf coast, has witnessed clashes between security forces and protesters from the Shiite community.

More than 20 people have been killed in the unrest since mass protests in early 2011 calling for more democratic reforms – most of them were local people shot in incidents that police described as exchanges of fire.

The Eastern Province was rocked last month when seven Shiite worshippers were shot dead in an attack that police say appears to have been carried out by supporters of the extremist ISIL group.

Authorities have also arrested several people in the shooting and wounding of a Danish man in the capital Riyadh in November, an attack which was claimed by ISIL supporters.

There are growing concerns about militant attacks in the kingdom in retaliation for its role in the US-led coalition battling the ISIL group in Iraq and Syria.

Saudi King Abdullah met with Jordan’s King Abdullah II in Riyadh on Sunday to discuss regional issues, according to the SPA.

Jordan is also part of the US-led group of countries conducting airstrikes against the militant group.

* Associated Press, Agence France Presse and Reuters

Published: December 15, 2014 04:00 AM

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