08/04/2004, 00.00
SAUDI ARABIA
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Irish engineer shot dead in Riyadh

Riyadh (AsiaNews/Agencies) – With the murder of an Irish civil engineer, attacks against western targets in the desert kingdom have started again breaking the hudna or truce in place since the June 19 announcement that US hostage Paul Johnson had been decapitated.

According to the scant information released by Saudi police the victim was Tony Christopher, a expatriate holding Irish citizenship. The 63-year-old engineer was shot in his office 4 times with a gun equipped with a silencer.

Yesterday's is the latest in a long list of terror victims that begun on May 12, 2003, when car bombs struck residential compounds for foreigners. At that time, 35 people were killed including the 9 terrorists. A similar attack was carried out last November causing several deaths.

Tony Christopher is the second Irishman killed in the oil-rich country. Simon Cumbers, a cameraman working for the British Broadcasting Corporation, died as a result of injuries suffered in an attack whilst he was filming in an area south of the Saudi capital.  

For intelligence experts, foreigners are targeted to undermine Saudi Arabia's economy. On May 1 of this year, 6 Westerners were killed during a shootout at a petrochemical plant in the Red Sea industrial port of Yanbu. On May 22, a German was killed just outside a bank in Riyadh. On June 8 and 12, just a few days before Paul Johnson's gruesome execution, two other US citizens were brutally murdered in Riyadh. Video footage of the first murder was posted on an Islamist website.

Saudi police tried to stop the wave of terror by a series of operations. One led to the death of al-Muqrin, local al-Qaeda chief. Five days later King Fahd offered an amnesty to suspected terrorists, but only six members of bin Laden's network surrendered. One of them was on the government's 26 most wanted list published last December.

The Irish and British governments have advised their citizens to stay away from Saudi Arabia. (DS)

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