updated 3/16/2004 1:03:05 PM ET 2004-03-16T18:03:05

Saudi Arabia is making progress in its campaign against terrorism, Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal said Tuesday — a day after security forces killed the suspected chief of al-Qaida on the Arabian Peninsula.

The suspected militant was shot dead with an alleged accomplice in a Monday afternoon clash at a checkpoint in eastern Riyadh, the capital.

“Saudi Arabia has announced it is fully pledged to eradicate terrorist activities in the country and to cooperate in the international arena with everybody that is fighting (terrorism),” Saud said when asked to comment on the shootout.

“We are happy with the successes,” the prince told a news conference with visiting British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw. “We know the successes haven’t finished the issue, but we will continue on the same course.”

The Interior Ministry identified those killed Monday as Khaled Ali Haj, a Yemeni, and Ibrahim bin Abdul-Aziz bin Mohammed al-Mezeini, a Saudi.

Haj, who also uses the name Abu Hazim al-Sha’ir, was the “most dangerous” al-Qaida operative in the region, a ministry official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. He once served as a body guard to Osama bin Laden, the leader of al-Qaida.

A U.S. counterterrorism official said Haj’s killing was a “very significant blow” to al-Qaida.

“This guy was involved in ongoing terrorist planning and plotting,” the U.S. official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Saudi Arabia's 26 most wanted
Haj was third on the government’s list of Saudi Arabia’s 26 most wanted militants. The other suspected militant killed Monday was not on the list.

Of the 26, three have now been killed and one has surrendered. A deputy interior minister has been quoted as saying an unspecified number have been arrested.

Straw told reporters that Britain valued Saudi Arabia’s efforts to combat terrorism.

“We have been seeking to increase and to deepen the practical cooperation which we and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia have,” Straw said.

In Monday’s shootout, the militants were in a vehicle that refused to stop for an identification check by members of the security forces, the ministry statement said. The suspects began shooting at the security forces, who returned fire, killing the two, the statement said.

The authorities seized six hand grenades, two AK-47 assault rifles, three 9mm pistols and $137,000 in cash from their vehicle, the statement said.

Haj is believed to have trained in al-Qaida’s Afghan camps in 1999 and later to have served as Osama bin Laden’s bodyguard. Before the Sept. 11 attacks, he traveled frequently to the Arabian peninsula, Southeast Asia and Afghanistan.

U.S. officials have also tied him to the May 12 bombings of residential complexes in Riyadh and possibly to some Saudi-based planning of operations targeting the United States.

The listed 26 militants are wanted in connection with Riyadh bombings last year that killed 51 people.

The government is offering a reward of $267,000 for information leading to the arrest of any suspect on the list.

Associated Press reporter Katherine Pfleger Shrader contributed to this report from Washington.

© 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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