French technician shot dead in Saudi Arabia

27th September 2004, Comments 0 comments

RIYADH, Sept 26 (AFP) - Saudi police clashed with suspected Islamic militants in the capital Sunday evening, less than 24 hours after a Frenchman was killed in the Red Sea city of Jeddah in what officials described as a "terrorist" attack.

RIYADH, Sept 26 (AFP) - Saudi police clashed with suspected Islamic militants in the capital Sunday evening, less than 24 hours after a Frenchman was killed in the Red Sea city of Jeddah in what officials described as a "terrorist" attack.  

Gunfire was heard from a southern neighbourhood of Riyadh, which was blocked off by special forces, an AFP correspondent on the scene said.   Security sources said the firefight erupted when three militants in a car refused to stop at a checkpoint near the al-Awda market in the city's al-Shifa district.  

Special forces shot at the trio who returned fire, wounding an Asian taxi-driver, the sources said.  

The militants then took off in another car they stole from a passing Saudi motorist.  

The security forces said the three militants were wounded in the exchange of fire. The motorist said one of them was killed.  

The AFP correspondent said the security forces chased the suspects to the neighbouring Al-Suweidi where they proceeded to carry out house-to-house searches.  

The clashes in Riyadh followed the killing of Laurent Barbot, 45, an employee of French defence electronics firm Thales, in the commercial capital of Jeddah earlier in the day.   It was the second shooting of a Westerner in the oil-rich kingdom in 10 days.  

Thales said it did not know why the technical assistant, who was one of 250 employees with the group working in Saudi Arabia, had been killed.  

"We have no details about this abominable attack," Thales chief Jean-Paul Perrier told AFP in Paris. "We don't know if it was random or a premeditated attack."  

But the interior ministry confirmed that they were treating the killing as an act of terrorism.  

"We can say through the preliminary investigation that it is a terrorist attack," ministry spokesman Mansur al-Turki told AFP.  

The incident was the latest in a series of shootings targeting Westerners but the first involving a French national in the kingdom, which has been battling a deadly wave of unrest since May 2003 blamed on Al-Qaeda sympathisers.  

Turki said Barbot was shot and found dying covered in blood at the wheel of his jeep which was blocking a lane on a road.  

Thales is currently working on a military project in Jeddah and the eastern industrial city of Jubail.  

The French embassy usually advises its nationals in Saudi Arabia through messages posted on its website to observe all measures of prudence and security.  

The United States, whose nationals have on several occasions been the target of attacks in the kingdom, decided in August against reinstating non-emergency staff at its embassy in Riyadh, renewing its warning to US citizens against travel to Saudi Arabia.  

Britain and Canada, as well as Scandinavian countries advise their citizens against non-essential travel to the kingdom, recommending that those who need to visit for business should take added precautionary measures.  

On September 15, a British national was killed in a shooting in Riyadh. He worked for telecommunications company Marconi, which advises the Saudi national guard.  

An Irish civil engineer was killed in the capital on August 3.  

Both incidents were claimed by Al-Qaeda's local affiliate which has vowed to "cleanse the Arabian Peninsula of infidels".  

On the third anniversary of the September 11 attacks in the United States, two blasts occurred hours apart near two Saudi and western banks in Jeddah, and the authorities announced the arrest of two suspects in what they later confirmed were "terrorist attacks".  

The Saudis have been hunting Al-Qaeda supporters in the kingdom whose local leader, Abdel Aziz al-Muqrin, was killed in mid-June shortly after his group published pictures of the beheading of US engineer Paul Johnson, kidnapped June 12 in Riyadh.  

King Fahd offered a month-long amnesty in June for militants to surrender, but only six people came forward.



Subject: French News




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