Two US defence contractors wounded in Saudi shooting

Two US defence contractors wounded in Saudi shooting

RIYADH - Two Americans who came under fire in Saudi Arabia this weekend are employees of a US defence contractor, the firm said on Sunday, confirming the second attack in recent months against Vinnell Arabia.

"We can confirm that two Vinnell Arabia employees were involved in an incident on Friday, in which they were shot at by assailants in the al-Ahsa province of Saudi Arabia," the company said in a statement issued through a public relations firm.

"Both employees were injured but are in stable condition at a local hospital," it added.

Saudi police said earlier that one American had been wounded in a shooting.

"A car carrying two American nationals...came under fire from an unknown source," on Friday afternoon in al-Ahsa, part of the eastern region which is the source of most of the kingdom's oil wealth, police said.

Vinnell Arabia provides training for the Saudi National Guard, a parallel army.

A source close to the incident told AFP that several rounds were fired at the Vinnell vehicle from a white car.

The Vinnell driver was hit several times, the source said, adding he was not aware of injuries to the second employee who was able to drive his wounded colleague to hospital.

The incident occurred just east of a National Guard base near Hofuf city.

On Friday, a resident of al-Ahsa told AFP that police had blocked off the area around a National Guard facility.

The attack is the fourth against Westerners in the kingdom since October. It comes as Saudi Arabia participates in United States-led air strikes against the Islamic State jihadist group in Syria, raising concerns about possible retaliation inside the kingdom.

In October, one Vinnell employee was shot dead and another wounded at a petrol garage in the capital Riyadh.

The interior ministry identified the suspected shooter as Abdulaziz Fahad Abdulaziz Alrashid, 24, a US-born Saudi who had been fired from Vinnell Arabia.

The company's Facebook page says it is "dedicated to providing the best in military training, logistics and support" to the Saudi National Guard, using expertise from former US military and government personnel.

Dane shot

The ministry said at the time that the suspect, who was wounded in a gunfight with security forces, had no "prior links" with extremist groups.

That was the first deadly attack on Westerners in Saudi Arabia since several were killed in a wave of Al-Qaeda violence between 2003 and 2007.

Among the targets at that time were housing compounds where foreigners lived, including one which was home to Vinnell staff.

Security around Western facilities has since been markedly increased.

The latest attack on Vinnell recalls the wounding of a Dane in November. He was driving away from his workplace when he was fired on from another car.

Last month, security officers arrested three Saudis on suspicion of involvement in that attack, saying the suspects acted "in support of" Islamic State.

A week after the Dane's shooting, someone stabbed and wounded a Canadian while he shopped at a mall on Saudi Arabia's Gulf coast.

Police arrested a Saudi suspect.

Saudi Arabia blamed IS-linked suspects for the November killing of seven members of the minority Shiite community, including children, in Eastern Province.

Islamic State has seized swathes of Iraq and Syria, where it has been accused of widespread atrocities.

Late on Saturday, the group claimed in a video that it had beheaded a second Japanese hostage.

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