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Intrusion at dawn…Random Firing at Foreigners

Posted May. 30, 2004 22:42,   


Hostage accident, ended in twenty five hours of fighting in Khobar, Saudi Arabia, revealed unusual aspects which have never been recorded so far.

With the rise of recent oil prices and ongoing terrorist attacks in Saudi Arabia, the largest oil exporter, oil prices are being watched closely.

--How the attacks happened

Four terrorists entered the headquarters of an Arab oil investment company in Khobar on the Gulf bay at 7:30 a.m. randomly firing and killing at least six people, including two Saudi security guards, British, Pakistani and Filipino nationals, CNN reported.

A 10-year-old Egyptian child riding on a school bus, which happened to be passing the building at the time of the shootings, was also shot dead. An AP news agency reported that the child’s father worked for that company.

30 minutes later terrorist militants surged toward the oil investment company 3.2.km away and killed at least four people, including an American, CNN reported. Soon afterward they moved into the Al-Sahd center in Oasis Hotel 1.6.km away where they occupied the sixth floor in a standoff against the police, taking 40 hostages

The Saudi government had blocked access to the media, so the ongoing situation was not clear and the foreign media were reported differing versions regarding the terrorists and casualties.

--How it was suppressed

Saudi police blockaded the area surrounding the hotel. While police prepared to penetrate the area in the afternoon of May 29 and again at dawn of May 30, they were forced to retreat due to continued attacks by the terrorists.

After failing its first stage operations, Saudi police stalled, finally persuading terrorists to surrender and set the hostages free. Special Forces surrounded the air space of the Hotel Oasis by helicopter at 5:30 a.m. on May 30.

Special Forces started operation at 8:30 a.m. to kill two terrorist militants, arrest another two and rescue 50 hostages. According to foreign news, there’s no report about casualties among the hostages during the rescue operation.

--Distinctive features

What seems most unusual in this case is that terrorists disguised themselves in military uniform and occupied moving vehicles while firing randomly.

The New York Times quoted one terror expert, “Attacks of gunfire from moving vehicles are much easier than car bombings,” and continued, “Guerilla attacks come in many forms, but all are hard to defend.”

Local newspapers reported that terrorists threw at least one person from the building they occupied and severed bodies of their victims. The New York Times reported one witness account that terrorists sped down a road for 180 m with a dead foreigner tied to their car.

Terrorists reportedly hunted foreigners, searching each office thoroughly. They separated Muslim from non-Muslim and released Muslims, including 5 Lebanese, immediately. This is for putting down the repulsion from the Arabic society against indiscriminate terrorist attack, AP news agency analyzed.

In the mean time, a prospect that oil price will not be affected is gaining predominance regarding the terrorist attacks against foreigners who are the main spindles in the Saudi oil industry. New York Times foresaw it couldn’t alter oil market drastically unless it was a direct attack to the oil facilities.

Jin Lee leej@donga.com