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Saudis Search For Hostage Takers

31 May 2004 -- Saudi security forces have set up checkpoints across the country as they search for three armed men involved in the attack and hostage-taking incident in the city of Al-Khobar.

The Saudi Interior Ministry announced last night that 22, mainly foreign, civilians were killed in the tragedy.

The ordeal began on 29 May when suspected Islamic militants attacked a compound housing offices of major Western oil companies in eastern Saudi Arabia. The gunmen then fled to a nearby housing complex, where they took some 50 hostages. The siege ended yesterday after Saudi special forces stormed the complex.

The Saudi Interior Ministry said 41 hostages were freed in the operation and that the suspected leader of the militants, Nimr al-Baqmi, was wounded and captured.

Al-Qaeda has purportedly claimed responsibility for the attack and hostage taking, in a statement released on an Internet website.

Arab countries' representatives, including Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Arab League Secretary-General Amr Mussa, have denounced the attack and hostage taking.