RIYADH, Saudi Arabia, AP -Militants who fought a three-day battle with Saudi security forces last week were targeting key installations, including oil facilities, Saudi Interior Minister Prince Nayef said in comments published Sunday.
Five of Saudi Arabia”s 36 most-wanted militants were killed after security forces stormed a seaside villa in the eastern city of Dammam. Four policemen also died in the fighting and 11 suspected militants were arrested.
"It is a fact — unfortunately — that there was (a plan) to target key installations in Eastern Province," Prince Nayef was quoted as saying by the daily Okaz.
"There isn”t a place that they could reach that they didn”t think about," he said, when asked if the militants were specifically targeting oil facilities in the energy-rich province.
Saudi Arabia repeatedly has said its oil installations are well-protected.
The government is waging a campaign against Islamic militants who have staged numerous terror attacks since May 2003. Militants have singled out Westerners holding important positions in the oil industry in a bid to cripple the economy.
King Abdullah, who ascended the throne in early August after the death of his half brother, Fahd, has vowed to push ahead with the crackdown. Al-Qaida seeks to topple the Saudi royal family because of its close ties with the West, particularly the United States.
Nayef said recent successes by security forces did not mean al-Qaida was finished in the kingdom. "We can”t say that we”ve totally finished (them) off or expunged the country from the evildoers," he said.
But authorities claim to have the upper hand. From an initial most wanted list of 26 militants issued in December 2003, all but one have been killed or captured.
Police have also killed or captured eight of the 15 figures on a new list issued in June who were believed to still be in the country. Some 21 others on the list are believed to be outside Saudi Arabia.