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Six al-Qaeda militants, policeman killed in Saudi shootout

SAUDI ARABIA: Six al Qaeda-linked militants and one policeman were killed in a shootout in the Saudi capital Riyadh on Friday, Saudi officials and media said.

"The operation has ended now ... Six armed elements were killed and a seventh was wounded and arrested," Saudi-owned Al Arabiya television's correspondent said.

One policeman was also killed in the shootout that occurred in a western district of the capital.

An Interior Ministry statement said the seven were linked to the "deviant group" - a label used by authorities to describe supporters of Saudi-born Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network.

"One security man was martyred in the incident and there were some injuries among the ranks of security forces," the statement said, adding that the forces had faced heavy fire from the militants.

"The security forces at dawn Friday pursued seven (...) members of the 'deviant minority' to a house in the Al-Nakhil district of Riyadh (...) where they suddenly came under sustained automatic weapons fire," the spokesman for the interior ministry said.

The police "then replied and managed to take control of the situation quickly, killing six of them, wounding and capturing the seventh," he said, adding: "A member of the security forces was killed and others were wounded in the operation."

The term "deviant minority" is used in Saudi officialese to designate the local branch of Al-Qaeda, responsible for a wave of violence that has shaken the oil-rich kingdom since May 2003.

The television quoted security sources as saying the militants were on the verge of launching unspecified attacks when security forces hit their hideout.

Islamist activists allied to the al Qaeda group have been waging a violent campaign aimed at toppling the U.S.-backed monarchy, which is also the world's biggest oil exporter, and expelling Westerners. Riyadh, Friday, Reuters

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