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US worker killed in Saudi Arabia

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia -- An American who worked for a US defense contractor was shot and killed yesterday in the Saudi capital, the second deadly shooting of a Westerner in the kingdom in three days.

An unknown assailant killed the man in his home, said a spokesman for the man's employer, Vinnell Corp., based in Fairfax, Va.

"He was found by another employee at his apartment and taken to a hospital, but did not survive," said the spokesman, Jay McCaffrey.

The company identified the victim as Robert C. Jacobs, 62, of Murphysboro, Ill., a seven-year employee of Vinnell, a subsidiary of Northrop Grumman Corp.

Seven Vinnell employees were among the 35 people, including nine suicide bombers, who died last year in an attack on a Riyadh foreigners' housing compound.

Vinnell, which has several dozen Americans in the kingdom training Saudi security forces, maintains a secure residential compound for its employees, but the victim chose not to live there, McCaffrey said.

The official Saudi news agency said police were investigating the death. Saudi security officials declined immediate comment.

"I am shocked," said Bandar Al-Ajmi, 29, a Saudi who lived near the victim. "He was our neighbor, and neither God nor the Prophet [Mohammed] would accept that something like this would happen."

An orange police bus blocked the street leading to the apartment in a villa in the Khaleej neighborhood of eastern Riyadh.

Besides training security forces, Vinnell Corp. also provides other services, ranging from construction to supply and transportation work. Last year, it was awarded a $48 million contract to train the new Iraqi army.

Islamic militants have carried out a series of attacks on Westerners, government targets, and economic interests in the kingdom during the past 13 months. The government has attributed the attacks to people inspired by, or belonging to, the Al Qaeda terror network led by Saudi-born Osama bin Laden.

Insurgents shot a British Broadcasting Corp. team Sunday while it was filming a militant's family home in Riyadh. The cameraman, Simon Cumbers, 36, an Irish citizen, was killed and security correspondent Frank Gardner, 42, a Briton, was critically wounded.

The attack occurred in a low-income neighborhood that has been the scene of numerous confrontations between government forces and militants.

The scene of the shooting yesterday was an upscale district of schools, clinics, and housing compounds where Westerners live.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair said Monday the attack on the BBC journalists demonstrated the threat terrorists pose around the world.

"We have to be vigilant and get out and get after them and make sure we deal with this issue," Blair said.

The British Foreign Office has advised Britons against all nonessential travel to Saudi Arabia. The United States has gone further, urging all its citizens to leave the kingdom.

Militant attacks have surged in the past two months, despite a high-profile campaign against terrorists the government began after last year's suicide bombings. On May 29, militants stormed a resort in the eastern oil city of Khobar and took hostages. They killed 22 people, mostly foreigners. One attacker was captured. Saudi security forces are still looking for three others. On May 22, a German chef was shot and killed outside a bank in Riyadh. The assailants remain at large.

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