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Saudi forces foil 'terror' plot, suspects killed

The incident comes a day after a bomb exploded outside a highway patrol station in eastern Saudi Arabia, injuring a policeman
File photo shows Saudi police officers (AFP)

Saudi authorities on Friday said they foiled a car bombing attempt in a shoot-out that killed two suspects, after a small bomb wounded a policeman elsewhere.

The Islamic State (IS) group have previously claimed deadly shootings and bombings against security forces in the kingdom, where dozens were also killed in a wave of attacks by al-Qaeda between 2003 and 2006.

Security forces foiled "a terrorist act" on Friday after closely monitoring two cars in the southwestern region of Aseer. One of the vehicles was carrying explosives, an interior ministry spokesman said in a statement.

Their drivers, aware that they were being followed, opened fire at security forces, prompting a car chase, the source said.

Security aircraft intervened and the suspects pulled over in a desert area as both sides traded fire, forcing the drivers to leave their cars and seek cover before the bombs in one car exploded, the spokesman added.

Both suspects were killed in the shootout that followed despite calls for them to surrender, the source said, adding that there were no casualties among the security forces.

Investigations are ongoing to identify the two men, the spokesman added.

Friday's announcement came a day after a small bomb exploded outside a highway patrol station in eastern Saudi Arabia, injuring a policeman, official media reported.

The attack late on Thursday happened in the al-Ahsa region, the Saudi Press Agency said, citing a provincial police spokesman.

One member of the police force received "a minor injury" and five vehicles were damaged, the spokesman added.

"Authorities started criminal investigations," he added.

Most of Saudi Arabia's minority Shia population live in the kingdom's Eastern Province which includes al-Ahsa, an oasis region where much of the Gulf country's oil reserves are located.

In January, a suicide bomber attacked a Shia mosque in Al-Ahsa, killing two people and wounding seven during Friday prayers.

It was the latest assault on members of Saudi Arabia's minority community, after earlier shootings and bombings claimed by the Sunni jihadist IS.

The group has also claimed attacks on Saudi security forces, most recently early this month when a police colonel was shot dead in the Riyadh area.

Earlier this year unrest including gunfire and explosions shook the eastern town of Awamiya after the execution of prominent Shia cleric Nimr al-Nimr on 2 January.

He was a driving force behind protests that began in 2011 among Shia and later developed into a call for equality in the Sunni-dominated kingdom.