Just as a gunman opened fire on the palace of Saudi Interior Minister Prince Nayef bin Abdul Aziz in Jeddah early on Saturday, security forces gunned him down.
They arrested another man during the attack in which “two men opened fire after midnight on the Qasr Shateh residence of Prince Nayef [and] the security forces retaliated, killing one of them,” a source close to the government told AFP.
According to the Saudi Press Agency, the deadly shooting occurred in Jeddah at 1:00 am, without reporting if it took place near the residence of Prince Nayef.
“A man fired his weapon in Abd el-Rahman alMaliki Avenue in Jeddah,” before he ‘was killed’, it said citing the police, adding that, “no citizens or members of the security forces were affected”.
The nature of the attack was ‘individual and isolated’ and did not bear the hallmarks of any organisation, the source said in reference to the al Qaeda terror network. The men, who were only identified as members of the Zahrani family, were ‘under the influence of drugs’ and one of them had a ‘small handgun’.
Interior ministry spokesperson Mansour al Turki referred a call for comment to Jeddah police spokesperson Mesfer al Joayed, who was not immediately available.
Police First Lieutenant Nawaf Nasser said he could not confirm the incident was a militant attack. “There is an investigation ongoing. It is not complete yet and there will be a final statement once it is,” he said.
Back in August 2009, Prince Nayef’s son Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, the Saudi deputy interior minister, narrowly survived a suicide bomb attack claimed by al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP.
AQAP last month issued a message from its military commander threatening to attack Saudi Arabia and its ruling family. “Nayef and his sons are a primary target for al Qaeda and the cells, as you saw with the attack on his son,” said Riad Kahwaji, chief executive of the ENIGMA think-tank in Dubai.
“It will come as no surprise if it turns out [Saturday’s] attack was by one of the al Qaeda cells. It shows determination and some capacity, also their intent to keep the Saudi officialdom on its toes,” he said.
Prince Nayef, in his late 70s, is second in line to the Saudi throne and was appointed second deputy prime minister in 2009.
He has been interior minister since 1970 and led the kingdom’s crackdown on al Qaeda in response to a wave of attacks by the militant group between 2003 and 2006.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 7th, 2011.