Saudi forces hunt for gunmen

Swedish national Magnus Johansson, 50, was married to an Australian woman, named by Swedish media as Sherree, and had lived in Australia for several years.

Most recently, he was working as an executive chef in Saudi Arabian hotels.

“It comes as a shock,” said friend and former colleague Volker Koepke, describing Mr Johansson as a calm, collected and remarkable chef.

In Saudi Arabia, forces set up checkpoints across the whole country after three gunmen, using hostages as temporary cover, escaped Saudi commandos who stormed a building in the eastern oil city of Khobar to end a long siege.

The leader of the militants, Nimr al-Baqmi, was wounded and captured during the rescue of the hostages on Sunday. All hostages were believed freed or dead.

The Khobar assault was the second in less than a month on the Saudi oil industry, a lifeline of the world economy.

An internet statement purporting to come from al-Qaeda said Osama bin Laden’s network carried out the operation.

It vowed to rid the birthplace of Islam of “infidels”. An audio tape apparently from top Saudi al-Qaeda leader Abdulaziz al-Muqrin vowed that this year would be “bloody and miserable” for Saudi Arabia.

Two days ago Muqrin issued plans for urban guerrilla warfare designed to topple the royal family.

The siege began on Saturday when gunmen opened fire on the Al-Khobar Petroleum Centre building, housing offices of major Western oil firms, before storming into compounds containing oil services offices and employees’ homes.

The body of a Briton was dragged through the streets behind a car, witnesses said, in an echo of the attack on a petrochemical site in the Red Sea town of Yanbu earlier this month in which an American suffered the same fate.

The gunmen then fled to the upmarket Oasis housing compound, taking some 50 foreigners hostage, and a 25-hour siege began.

On Sunday, commandos dropped from helicopters to storm the building. The Saudi Interior Ministry said 41 foreigners, many traumatised and injured, were rescued and 201 other residents who had been trapped in the compound were evacuated.

A Saudi diplomat said nine hostages were killed before the forces entered the building.

The Interior Ministry, giving the figure of 22 dead, did not make clear how many were killed during the siege and rescue and how many in Saturday’s shooting attacks on various Khobar buildings.

The ministry listed the dead as an American, a Briton, an Italian, a South African, a Swede, eight Indians, two Sri Lankans, three Filipinos, an Egyptian boy and three Saudis. It said 25 people were injured.

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