Saleh Mohammed al-Aoofi, a Saudi in his late 30s, was among six al-Qaida militants reported killed during police raids on numerous locations in Medina and the capital, Riyadh, security officials told the Associated Press.
Al-Aoofi was considered the top leader of Osama bin Laden’s terror network inside the kingdom, and was one of the country’s 26 most-wanted militants. Twenty-four others have been have been captured or killed since the list was issued in December 2003.
Interior Ministry officials also said at least one militant was arrested in Riyadh and 10 more were detained in Medina, where Saudi Arabia’s new monarch, King Abdullah, was meeting with Islamic clerics and tribal leaders, according to the AP.
Police raided six al-Qaida hideouts in Medina near the mosque where the Prophet Muhammad was buried before coming across a seventh, where al-Aoofi and two others were hiding, the Interior Ministry said.
“They [the militants] opened fire heavily on the security forces and the pedestrians” before police returned fire, according to a ministry statement. “Investigators were able to prove through verification procedures that one of the two killed is the wanted Saleh al-Aoofi.”
The identity of the other slain militant was not released, the AP reported.
In Riyadh, police also raided an apartment Thursday morning, triggering a shootout with militants inside.
Al-Aoofi took over the leadership of al-Qaida in Saudi Arabia after security forces killed Abdulaziz al-Muqrin in June 2004, Saudi authorities have said, according to Reuters.
In a letter posted on the Internet this year, al-Aoofi vowed to send fighters into Iraq to join insurgents battling U.S. forces there.
Since May 2003, Islamic militants have conducted numerous suicide bombings and kidnappings, which tend to target Westerners. The attacks have been blamed on al-Qaida and its allies.