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Saudis storm besieged compound

Gunmen kill at least 11 in attack on oil industry complexes

Saudi troops jump from a helicopter to a complex where hostages were held.
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Gunmen attack an oil company compound in Khobar, Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia
Acts of terror

(CNN) -- Rescue helicopters carrying Saudi security forces dropped them off on the roof of a building Sunday at a residential complex in Khobar where hostages -- perhaps about 50 -- have been held by gunmen since Saturday.

The U.S. State Department said one American was among the 11 people killed during the attack spree by suspected Islamic militants, and Western diplomatic sources said a British citizen also died.

Reports of the number of hostages being held ranged from 20 to 50 or more, with Saudi officials only saying there were "many."

The hostages were believed to be Westerners. They were taken Saturday, after gunmen attacked two other locations in the industrial port city.

Many of the people who live at the compound work in the petroleum industry.

Nail Al-Jubeir, a spokesman for the Saudi Embassy in Washington, told CNN that seven Americans were rescued early Sunday -- before the helicopters landed -- and two of them had been wounded. He said he had no other details.

Several Lebanese hostages were released at the request of that country's ambassador in Riyadh.

Omar Al-Zebaidy, a journalist with Al-Arabiya television, told CNN earlier that police surrounding the building stormed in and reached the fifth floor before the captors fired at them from the floor above, and both sides exchanged machine-gun fire.

The gunmen entered the complex, where security is said to be tight, in a spray of bullets.

Saudi security forces initially tried storming the complex either late Saturday or early Sunday, but stopped the operation, after some of the police were wounded, the Saudi official said.

They tried to convince the gunmen to surrender and release the hostages before again using force.

Saudi officials said the attackers were on a list of wanted militants, many of whom had been linked to al Qaeda.

A Web site previously used to publish statements for al Qaeda posted a claim of responsibility for the attack.

In the claim, an unknown group calling itself "The Jerusalem Squadron" said a group of "brave fighters" attacked "Zionists and crusaders" who are in Khobar to "steal our oil and resources."
Aftermath of the deadly attack.

Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the Saudi ambassador to the United States, issued a statement condemning the terrorist attack.

"The terrorist attack in Al-Khobar, Saudi Arabia, was a cowardly and despicable act of murder," the statement said.

"We grieve for the loss of innocent life and share our deepest condolences with the families of the victims. These terrorists have no respect for human life and no regard for the principles of Islam.

"The terrorists' goal is to disrupt the Saudi economy and destabilize our country. But they will not succeed. With every desperate act of violence, our effort and resolve to destroy the terrorists only grows.

"Hatred and extremism will not prevail over our people's desire for peace, security and progress."

While Saudi officials estimate the number of attackers at four, witnesses on the scene have suggested it was higher since three different locations over a two-mile range were attacked within an hour.

The first location hit was the Khobar headquarters of APICORP (Arab Petroleum Investments Corporation). Six people were killed, including a 10-year-old Egyptian boy whose father worked there.

Two Saudi security guards, a British citizen, a Pakistani and a Filipino were also listed among the dead, according to Arab News reporter Saeed Haider, who arrived at the scene on time to see several of the bodies.

A few minutes later, an Indian citizen caught in the crossfire of a highway shootout was shot in the neck and died.


Anout 30 minutes later, attackers stormed the Petroleum Center headquarters about three kilometers (two miles) away where they killed at least four people, including an American, Haider said.

The attackers then moved about 800 meters (yards) away to the Saad Center -- a residential building which is part of Oasis compound -- where they took the hostages and raised their barricades.

It was unclear how many people died there. Journalists were barred from the area amid the standoff.

Reporters near the scene said it appeared Saudi security forces at one point attempted to raid the building but pulled back after taking casualties.

A senior Saudi Interior Ministry official said it is believed the attackers were under the direction of people based outside Saudi Arabia.

Earlier this month, Swiss engineering company ABB evacuated its foreign workers from Yanbu in northwestern Saudi Arabia after gunmen stormed ABB's oil refinery compound on May 1 and killed five Westerners -- two Americans, two Brits, and one Australian.

Saudi officials said those who carried out the May 1 attack -- all four of whom were also killed in the exchange of fire that day -- were on the list of wanted militants, and all were from Arab nations.

-- Editor Caroline Faraj contributed to this report

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