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Gunmen kill 6 Westerners in attack at Saudi oil plant

25 wounded; 4 attackers slain following chase

JIDDAH, Saudi Arabia -- Attackers sprayed gunfire inside an oil contractor's office yesterday, killing at least six Westerners -- including two Americans -- and wounding at least 25 others before leading police on a bloody chase with the naked body of one of the victims dragging behind the car.

Witnesses said police engaged in a shootout with the gunmen outside a Holiday Inn before overpowering them on a downtown street.

A statement from the Interior Ministry said police killed three of the attackers and wounded a fourth, who died later.

One of the attackers was reportedly on the Saudi kingdom's list of most-wanted terrorists, many of them suspects in two suicide attacks last year on foreign housing compounds in the capital, Riyadh. Both attacks were blamed on Al Qaeda.

Three of the gunmen worked at the contractor's office in the industrial city of Yanbu, 220 miles north of the Red Sea city of Jiddah; they used their key cards to enter the building and sneak another attacker through an emergency gate, according to an Interior Ministry source quoted by the official Saudi Press Agency.

''Using different arms, they started firing at the offices of the company's personnel before leaving the scene in a hurry to begin attacking a residential compound," the agency quoted the source as saying, giving no further details.

The Interior Ministry statement said the gunmen walked into the offices and ''randomly shot at Saudi and foreign employees." The offices are across the street from a petrochemicals plant co-owned by Exxon Mobil and the Saudi company SABIC.

The Saudi Press Agency report said two Americans, two Britons, an Australian, and a Saudi National Guardsman were killed, but a European diplomat said a second Australian also died.

The last attack that killed Americans in Saudi Arabia was in May 2003, when coordinated suicide bombings at Riyadh housing compounds killed 34 people, including eight Americans. The second Riyadh suicide assault, in November, killed 17 people.

There was no word on the motivation behind yesterday's shootings, but US officials had warned in recent weeks of possible attacks against foreigners in Saudi Arabia, an important US ally. A Saudi diplomat called the attack an ''indiscriminate evil rampage."

Intelligence has suggested Al Qaeda wanted to strike at Saudi oil interests, and terror group leader Osama bin Laden -- a Saudi exile -- has called for the overthrow of the Saudi royal family and questioned its Islamic credentials.

After opening fire in the office, the attackers tied the body of one victim to the back of a stolen car before fleeing, according to a witness who, like all residents reached in Yanbu, spoke on condition of anonymity.

The website of the English-language Saudi Gazette reported that the attackers stripped the man naked before tying him to the getaway car and dragging him along a road.

The newspaper showed a photograph of one attacker lying in a pool of blood in the middle of a road wearing only black trousers and surrounded by a crowd of Saudi bystanders in white robes.

Mohamed Ghamdi, the Gazette's editor, said the dead man was Abdullah Saud Abu-Nayan al-Sobaie, number 10 on a list of the kingdom's 26 most-wanted terrorists. The Associated Press was not immediately able to confirm if Sobaie was among those killed.

In another, near-simultaneous attack in the city yesterday, a pipe bomb was thrown over a wall of Yanbu International School, causing minor damage and slightly injuring a custodian, according to the Overseas Security Advisory Council, which shares security information between the US government and the private sector.

The two Americans killed were engineers for ABB-Lummus, the energy arm of multinational engineering company ABB.

A British ABB employee, a British contractor and an Australian employee were also killed, spokesman Bjorn Edlund said from Zurich.

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