Dammam, Asharq Al-Awsat- Islamic militants battled Saudi security forces for a third day Tuesday in a seafront district of the eastern city of Dammam, with three extremists and two policemen reportedly dead.
The deaths bring the number of suspected al-Qaeda militants killed to five, in the fighting that began on Sunday. A policeman also died in earlier clashes.
Armed forces continued to surround the building where a number of militants were surrounded which was partially destroyed in heavy bombing as arguments raged between the men inside, some of whom wanted to surrender and were subsequently shot by their companions.
Sources told Asharq al Awsat that two militants killed in the clashes were 31-year-old Zaid al Samari and Saleh Mansur al Faridi al Harbi, both Saudis, who had taken part in clashes with security officers in the past, adding that the number of militants was believed to be between 6 and 8.
Reports had also indicated that another member of the terrorist cell, whose name appeared on the list of the 36 most wanted militants, Walid al Radadi, was also killed in the confrontation.
A number of militants involved in the siege are thought to belong to the terrorist cell headed by Saleh al Awfi who was killed last month in a police raid in Medina . The group escaped to the eastern region through desert areas of the Kingdom.
The fighting intensified after daybreak, when a military helicopter dropped off a team of commandos near the villa where militants were surrounded. Rocket propelled grenades exploded and the black smoke billowing from the roof of the militants” villa became thicker.
Bulldozers and heavy machinery seen in the area indicate the security forces had intended to demolish parts of the house under siege before storming in. Sources indicated the house is likely to be full of explosives and firearms.
Security forces cordoned off the entire Mubarakiah district in the city. Police checkpoints did not allow any vehicle to leave the neighborhood on Tuesday.
Ambulances were seen transporting policemen from the scene with a range of injuries as a result of being shot at by militants or shrapnel exploding nearby to the city”s central hospital.
The shootout caused the US to temporarily shut its consulate in the nearby city of Dhahran.
Saudi Interior Ministry spokesman Mansur al Turki said the police were dealing with people "who have a tendency to blow themselves up and we know they have a significant number of weapons and explosives and might take actions that will have negative effects".
Meanwhile, security officials revealed that a number of suspected terrorists who tried to leave the house and surrender were shot and killed by their own associates. Informed sources added that 10 men were seen using the house in the last month after it was rented for 40 thousand Riyals and used to store explosives and ammunitions. Hidden firearms were earlier discovered by the police in the city of al Kharj.
Since May 2003, Islamic militants affiliated to al Qaeda have carried out numerous attacks, suicide bombings and kidnapping in the Kingdom. More than 140 have been killed and more than 100 militants have died in the government”s crackdown.
The violence in Dammam flared as the U.S Homeland Security adviser, Frances Townsend, met King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz and other top Saudi officials on Monday in Riyadh.