Saudi security forces have stormed the US consulate in Jeddah in pursuit of gunmen who attacked the building. Three militants are said to have been killed and two others arrested. It follows reports that the attackers were holding at least 18 local members of staff hostage at the American mission in the Red Sea city. Sources say four Saudi security guards have been killed.
It is believed the gunmen had unsuccessfully tried to drive a car into the compound. Some reports speak of grenades being thrown. Heavy gunfire and explosions were heard and fire broke out inside the consulate, sending plumes of smoke into the sky. Police and national guards sealed off the area and ambulances were seen ferrying casualties to hospital.
However no US diplomats were killed, injured or taken hostage according to a spokeswoman at the American embassy in Riyadh. Saudi Arabia is battling a wave of al Qaeda violence against foreigners and security forces. Around 170 people have been killed in attacks and clashes since the first suicide bombings in the capital Riyadh 18 months ago. Apart from bomb attacks on foreign targets in the kingdom, gunmen have also shot dead several Americans and Europeans in a campaign to drive foreigners from the birthplace of Islam.