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Saudi anti-terror chief escapes Qaeda suicide bomb

world Updated: Aug 28, 2009 13:32 IST

Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, a Saudi royal family member who heads the kingdom's anti-terror fight, escaped little harmed from a suicide bomb attack in Jeddah, official news agency SPA said on Friday.

The deputy interior minister suffered only superficial injuries after the suicide bomber got close to him and detonated his explosives on Thursday evening, the agency said quoting a royal court statement.

The Saudi wing of Al-Qaeda was swift in claiming responsibility.

In a statement posted on an Islamist website late on Thursday, Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula said it was behind the bomb, according to US-based monitoring group, SITE Intelligence.

The bomber was the only casualty. Prince Mohammed was receiving guests at the end of the day's fasting during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, SPA said.

The royal court said the bomber was a wanted terrorist who had approached the prince under the pretext he wanted to give himself up.

He detonated his device while he was undergoing security checks, it added.

Saudi television showed images of the prince after the attack. SPA posted a photo of him receiving King Abdullah at the hospital. The anti-terror chief did not seem affected by his ordeal and the only bandage was on the middle finger of his left hand.

Prince Mohammed is the son of long time Interior Minister Prince Nayef bin Abdul Aziz, who has been in office since 1975. He serves as the minister's assistant for security affairs.

This was the first high-profile Al-Qaeda attack against the government since militants rammed a car bomb into the fortified interior ministry in Riyadh in 2004.

It was also the first strike on a member of the royal family since Al-Qaeda launched a wave of attacks in the kingdom in 2003, targeting Western establishments and oil facilities and leaving more that 150 Saudis and foreigners dead.

Authorities in Saudi Arabia, home of Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden and 15 out of 19 hijackers who carried out the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States, responded by killing scores of the organisation's militants and rounding up hundreds more.

Earlier this month, Saudi authorities announced the arrest of 44 high-profile Al-Qaeda operatives with large caches of arms.

By some estimates more, than 3,000 are held by police for suspected links to Al-Qaeda while nearly 1,000 have been charged with terror-related offenses.