RIYADH (AFP) – Saudi authorities said on Tuesday they have arrested suspects over the February killing of four Frenchmen near the Muslim holy city of Medina but are still hunting two others linked to the murder.
“Strong evidence led to the arrest of some suspects” in the shooting of the four French nationals on February 26, the interior ministry said in a statement carried by official media.
The ministry said it had given two other Saudi men until 8:00 am (0500 GMT) on Wednesday to turn themselves in for questioning about the killings.
“Evidence shows the two are linked to the crime,” ministry spokesman Mansur al-Turki told AFP.
It was the first attack in three months against Westerners in oil-rich Saudi Arabia, which was rocked by a spate of bombings and shootings blamed on suspected Al-Qaeda militants that started in May 2003, triggering a relentless security crackdown on Islamist extremists.
The slain men were among a group of nine members of three French families returning to their homes in the capital Riyadh after visiting an historic site in northwestern Saudi Arabia and were shot dead in a desert area near Medina.
The survivors, women and children, have since returned to France.
The interior ministry quoted survivors as saying “two individuals” opened fire with machineguns on the French families after they lost their way in a desert area 90 kilometres (55 miles) from Medina.
“The interest of the investigation requires each of Abdullah Sayer Moawad al-Mohammadi, a Saudi national, and his relative Nasser bin Latif al-Belwi, a Saudi national, to turn themselves in to the closest security outpost to clarify the truth of their position urgently,” the ministry statement said.
“Should they fail to give themselves up, they will be considered as wanted by security authorities,” it added.