Two of Saudi Arabia's most wanted terror suspects were shot dead Monday in a shootout with police forces.
One of the two is Khaled Ali Haj, Al-Qaeda's chief of operations in the Arabian Peninsula, and one of the 26 most wanted terror suspects posted last
November. "This was a very significant senior al-Qaeda figure in Saudi Arabia," according to a counterterrorism official.
Saudi?s interior ministry confirmed earlier Tuesday that Haj was killed along with Saudi Ibrahim bin Abdul Aziz bin Mohammed Al-Mazini when police
shot back at them after they had opened fire on securitymen when ordered to stop the jeep they were travelling in. Born in Saudi?s Red Sea port city
of Jeddah to a Yemeni family living in the kingdom?s eastern province, Haj, who is around 30 years old, was in Yemen for some time through the 1990s
before serving as Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden?s bodyguard in Afghanistan, the sources said.
Haj succeeded Abdul Rahim al-Nashiri as the terror network?s head of operations in the Gulf after the latter?s arrest at the end of 2002 in the United
Arab Emirates, they added. Nashiri was subsequently handed over to US authorities.
A 36-year-old Saudi national of Yemeni origin, Nashiri is suspected of having organised the October 2000 attack in Yemen against the destroyer USS
Cole, which killed 17 US sailors, and the August 1998 attacks on US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that killed 224 people.
Haj ranked third on a 26-strong list of most wanted suspected Islamist militants alleged to have links with last year?s deadly suicide bombings in the
The list, released in December includes 23 Saudis, two Moroccans and a Yemeni.
The list is now narrowed down to 22 after Haj?s death Monday. Another militant was killed in a clash with security forces, one surrendered, and a
third died of his wounds after he was injured in a shootout with police.