According to the Saudi Interior Ministry, Turki Nasser al-Dandani and at least four other militants died during a five-hour standoff with Saudi police. The militants reportedly ran out of ammunition as the gun battle continued.
Earlier, Saudi officials told news services that al-Dandani had blown himself up as police closed in, but it was unclear late Thursday exactly how he had died.
The Arab-language television Al-Arabiya reported al-Dandani killed himself after police cornered him in al-Jawf in northern Saudi Arabia.
Saudi officials were pursuing al-Dandani for his role as one of the planners of the deadly Riyadh suicide attacks that killed 25 people and nine attackers and wounded more than 200 on May 12, 2003. Police arrested the accused mastermind, Ali Abd al-Rahman al-Faqasi al-Ghamdi, last week.
In Washington, American officials told reporters the two incidents would severely hamper al-Qaida’s operations in the Saudi kingdom.
Since shortly after the attack, officials in the U.S. and Riyadh had alleged that al-Qaida operatives had organized the May 12th attack. In June, Prince Nayef, the Saudi interior minister, publicly accused al-Qaida of orchestrating the nearly simultaneous suicide attacks on compounds housing expatriates.
“I think it is al-Qaida (who executed the attacks) and there might be other organizations who helped or worked closely in the attacks,” Prince Nayef told the state-controlled Saudi newspaper Okaz.
During the attacks, three nearly simultaneous suicide bombings rocked residential housing complexes where many foreigners live. The early morning bombings killed several guards at the residential compounds; nine American were among the 25 dead. Later, a smaller fourth blast went off at the headquarters of a Saudi-American business, the Saudi maintenance company also known as Siyanco.