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Sat 6 Aug 2011 10:23 AM

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Gunman killed near Saudi prince's palace

Saudi police say they are unable to confirm whether the incident was terror related

Gunman killed near Saudi prince's palace
Saudi Interior Minister Prince Nayef

Saudi security forces killed a gunman on Saturday morning after he fired at a checkpoint near the Interior Minister's palace in Jeddah, the state news agency said.

Police said they were unable to confirm whether the incident was terror related.

"At 1am on Saturday, a person carrying a gun fired at a checkpoint in Abdulrahman Al-Malki Street in Jeddah. He was dealt with swiftly and was killed. The event is still under investigation," the SPA statement said.

There were no other deaths or casualties, the statement said.

Interior Minister Prince Nayef, who is believed to be in his late 70s, was appointed as second deputy prime minister in 2009. He spearheaded the country's crackdown on al-Qaeda militants who aimed to destabilise the country between 2003- 2006.

Around the same time two years ago the Interior Minister's son, Prince Mohammed bin Nayef Al-Saud, who oversees the country's counter-terrorism programme, survived an attempt on his life by a suicide bomber posing as a repentant militant.

Interior Ministry spokesperson Mansour al-Turki referred a call for comment to Jeddah police spokesperson Mesfer Aljoayed, who was not immediately available.

Police First Lieutenant Nawaf Nasser said he could not confirm if the incident was a terror attack and added: "There is an investigation on-going. It is not complete yet and there will be a final statement once it is."

"Nayef and his sons are a primary target for Qaeda and the
cells, as you saw with the attack on his son," said Riad
Kahwaji, chief executive of ENIGMA think tank in Dubai.

"It will come as no surprise if it turns out
(Saturday's)attack was by one of the Qaeda cells. It shows
determination and some capacity, also their intent to keep the
Saudi officialdom on its toes," he said.

The world's biggest oil producer, Saudi Arabia, is an absolute monarchy without an elected parliament or political parties.

Saudi Arabia, a close US ally, has grown increasingly concerned that months of political turmoil in neighbouring Yemen is strengthening al Qaeda's Yemen-based regional wing, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).

AQAP last month issued a message from its military commander threatening to attack Saudi Arabia and its ruling family.