Saudi police arrest two after shootouts in separate districts of Riyadh
RIYADH - Police in Saudi Arabia said Wednesday they had arrested two suspected militants and were hunting two others who fled following shootouts and raids that netted automatic weapons and a bomb belt.
The gunfire occurred in separate districts of Riyadh on Tuesday night as officers pursued an investigation into "deviant groups," the interior ministry said in a statement.
Saudi authorities use the term to refer to Islamic extremists, although the ministry did not specifically mention any group.
The raids came after a series of attacks this year claimed by the Islamic State (ISIS) group that killed dozens of people in Saudi Arabia.
Two suspects opened fire and threw a grenade at police trying to arrest them in a residential area in the capital's Monsia district, the ministry said.
Ahmed al-Zahrani, 21, and Mohammed al-Zahrani, 19, were detained.
At the second location, a Saudi coffee shop in Riyadh's Dharma district, the suspects tried to flee in a vehicle after spotting the police.
"They then heavily opened fire at security officers," who shot back and disabled their vehicle, the statement said.
The suspects then "seized a citizen's vehicle by force and took off in it."
Television pictures showed forensic police examining a pick-up truck with bullet holes in its windshield.
Officers found a bomb belt in the truck, the interior ministry said.
As the manhunt continued, Al-Ekhbaria television showed police checking cars on a highway.
Searches of the residential complex and coffee shop revealed a laboratory potential used for bomb making, several automatic rifles and pistols, ammunition, more than 400,000 riyals ($106,000) in cash and "sketches of targeted areas," the ministry said.
The incident occurred days before next week's hajj pilgrimage in western Saudi Arabia. The event is expected to draw about two million Muslims from around the world.
In the latest attack claimed by ISIS, 12 members of a police special weapons unit and three workers died during prayers when a suicide bomber infiltrated a mosque at their headquarters in the southwestern city of Abha in early August.
Another ISIS-affiliated group, "Najd Province", said it carried out attacks on Shiite mosques in May that killed 25 people in the kingdom's Eastern Province. Najd is the central region of Saudi Arabia.
The same group claimed a June attack in Kuwait which killed 26 Shiite worshippers and wounded 227.
ISIS last year seized large parts of Iraq and Syria, where they have carried out widespread atrocities and inspired attacks elsewhere in the world.
The Sunni extremists of ISIS consider Shiites to be heretics.
They have also singled out Saudi police for attack.
Saudi Arabia and its Sunni Gulf neighbours last year joined a US-led military coalition bombing ISIS in Syria.
In July, the interior ministry said it had broken up an ISIS-linked network and arrested more than 430 suspects involved in attacks and plots.
Last December, police arrested three alleged supporters of ISIS for shooting and wounding a Danish citizen.
The resurgence of extremist violence comes a decade after Al-Qaeda waged a campaign of shootings and bombings against foreigners and Saudi security personnel.