Irishman killed in Saudi Arabia

/ Source: The Associated Press

Armed men shot and killed an Irishman on Tuesday after storming his office in the Saudi capital, the latest killing of a foreigner in the kingdom, a Saudi official said.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but militants linked to the al-Qaida terror network have been blamed for a string of recent attacks on Westerners that killed another Irishman and three Americans in a campaign aimed at driving vital foreign workers out of the country.

At least two gunmen broke into the office of the Saudi-owned Rocky for Trade and Construction and began shooting, the official said.

The Riyadh police chief told the official Saudi Press Agency that police were investigating Tuesday's slaying. The dead man’s name was not given. Al-Arabiya satellite television said the victim was a 63-year-old engineer.

A spokeswoman for Ireland’s Department of Foreign Affairs said the man was killed at about 5 p.m. The Irish Embassy in Riyadh is “involved in the case” and in contact with Saudi authorities, she said. She would not give further details, including the man’s name.

It was the second killing of an Irish national by Saudi militants in two months. On June 6, Simon Cumbers, 36, a cameraman with the British Broadcasting Corp., was shot and killed while filming a militant’s family home in Riyadh. Security correspondent Frank Gardner, 42, a Briton, was critically wounded in that attack.

The last terror attack against a Westerner was the kidnapping of American engineer Paul M. Johnson Jr. on June 12 and his beheading six days later.

Two other Americans were killed in the kingdom in the week before Johnson’s kidnapping.

The wave of violence in Saudi Arabia began May 12, 2003, when car bombs targeted three compounds housing foreign workers, killing 35 people, including nine suicide bombers. Since then, the kingdom has suffered a series of suicide bombings, gunbattles and kidnappings.

The attacks have been blamed on groups allied to Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida movement. Al-Qaida aspires to topple the Saudi royal family and replace it with an Islamic government.