Gunmen killed two Saudi security personnel on Thursday when they opened fire on a guard post outside a prison in the Red Sea port city of Jiddah, the Interior Ministry said.
“At 4 p.m. one of the guard posts around the Ruwais prison in the governorate of Jiddah came under fire from a nearby building that led to the martyrdom of two security personnel,” the ministry said in a statement.
Residents said Islamic militants are believed to be held at the prison.
Saudi-owned Al Arabiya television quoted a security official as saying security forces arrested two suspects after chasing down a vehicle they used to flee.
State-owned al-Ikhbariya television said a security officer was wounded in a shootout with the gunmen later in the evening.
Saudi forces were surrounding the building where the gunmen were thought to be holed up, an Interior Ministry official told Reuters.
Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest oil exporter, has been fighting a violent campaign by al-Qaida supporters to topple the U.S.-backed monarchy since May 2003, when they launched suicide bombings against Western housing compounds in Riyadh.
Security forces brought in helicopters against the gunmen and ambulances ferried the victims away from the scene of the fighting in the city’s Ruwais district, Arabiya said.
Unknown if assailants were militants
The official said it was not clear if the gunmen were Islamic militants, adding that the building they opened fire from was under construction.
A witness said scores of security personnel were deployed around the Ruwais area in al-Sharafiya district and around the Ruwais prison after the shootout.
“There are many, many police patrol vehicles and vans and ambulances in every alley,” the witness said.
The resident said police had cordoned off areas where diplomatic missions were located in the city.
The kingdom said last week it had detained 136 suspected militants, including a would-be suicide bomber.
Interior Minister Prince Nayef bin Abdul-Aziz said on Monday the militants, who included foreigners, were planning a series of suicide bombings and assassinations.