Middle East

Saudi Arabia sentences US consulate attacker to death

Saudi security forces deployed outside US consulate in Jeddah (7 December 2004) Image copyright AFP
Image caption Saudi Arabia cracked down on al-Qaeda-linked groups after the consulate attack

A Saudi court has sentenced one man to death and 19 others to up to 25 years in prison in connection with an attack on the US consulate in Jeddah in 2004.

The Saudi Press Agency said the man facing execution was one of the five militants who stormed the building.

One Saudi security guard stationed outside the consulate and four locally hired staff working inside were killed, along with four of the assailants.

Another 35 defendants in the case are due to be sentenced later this week.

Two groups linked to al-Qaeda said they were behind the attack, one of a series that left dozens of foreigners and Saudi citizens dead in 2004.

In the Jeddah raid, the five militants threw explosive devices at the gate of the heavily guarded compound, forced their way into the consulate building, and then held hostages at gunpoint.

Three of the assailants were killed at the site by Saudi security forces, and one died later of his injuries. The fifth was taken into custody.

The Saudi Press Agency reported that the authorities would publicly display his body after the execution- the most severe form of punishment allowed under the kingdom's Islamic legal system.

The other men sentenced on Sunday and the 35 facing hearings this week are accused of belonging to the same militant cell as the attackers, and of supporting the Jeddah attack and another at the Rabigh petrol refinery the same year, according to Reuters news agency.

The Saudi authorities stepped up their crackdown on al-Qaeda-linked groups in the wake of the consulate attack, capturing or killing many senior militants, and forcing others to flee to Yemen.

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