|Two BBC men shot in Saudi
capitalBBC cameraman Simon Cumbers has been killed and security
correspondent Frank Gardner seriously injured in a gun attack in the
Saudi capital, Riyadh.
Surgeons operated overnight on Gardner,
who was hit in the stomach
Irishman Cumbers, 36, was a freelance
journalist and cameraman while Gardner, 42, is the BBC's security
correspondent and a leading expert on al-Qaeda.
Gardner underwent hours of surgery, after
which he was critical but stable.
UK Prime Minister Tony Blair said his thoughts
were with the families of the men attacked.
"This is a struggle against these terrorists
who will kill innocent people who are involved in our democracy," Mr
Blair told the BBC.
"We have seen since September 11th and Bali
and Madrid that they are a threat in literally every part of the
world and we have to be vigilant and get out and get after them and
make sure we deal with this issue."
Riyadh's police chief said the attack was
carried out by "unknown elements" on Sunday afternoon.
The two men travelled to Saudi Arabia last
week following terror attacks in the city of Khobar and were in the
al-Suwaydi suburb of Riyadh with a Saudi government minder when the
They were filming the house of an al-Qaeda
militant killed last year when they came under fire.
"Nobody knew Saudi Arabia or
knew the sort of risks they were undertaking better
The BBC's Paul Wood reports that the suburb is
known as a militant stronghold and home to 15 of the 26 most wanted
men in Saudi Arabia, including Abdul Aziz al-Muqrin, suspected
leader of al-Qaeda in the kingdom.
BBC Director of News Richard Sambrook said
that Gardner had undergone "extensive surgery" overnight, having
suffered wounds mostly to his abdomen.
He added that both reporters would have been
aware of the danger.
"Nobody knew Saudi Arabia or knew the sort of
risks they were undertaking better than Frank who had lived and
worked in Saudi Arabia and spoke fluent Arabic and who was an expert
on al-Qaeda and on terrorism," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.
Recent statements by Islamic militants have
made clear that any Westerner in Saudi Arabia is considered a
The reports Gardner and Cumbers had already
filed from Saudi Arabia spoke of a new climate of fear among
Security sources said the gunmen had escaped
and roadblocks had been set up in an effort to catch them, Reuters
news agency reports.
The men's minder is believed to have escaped
unharmed and is now being questioned, Saudi security sources say.
UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw described
Gardner as an "outstanding reporter who always seeks to do
everything he can to explain the dangerous world we live in to the
The BBC men were attacked in a
district notorious for militancy
He said he had met Cumbers on a reporting
assignment to Iran and Iraq last year.
"He was a great guy in many ways, larger than
life. It makes his death all the more tragic," he said.
Offering his condolences, the Saudi ambassador
to the UK, Prince Turki al-Faisal, said he knew Gardner personally
as a "highly respected journalist".
"He has been vigorous in his pursuit of the
truth behind the terrible evil of al-Qaeda which haunts us all," he
The attack comes a week after the hostage
crisis in Khobar, in which 22 people were killed by suspected
The Foreign Office has advised against all but
essential travel to the country, with officials believing militants
are planning further attacks after the Khobar killings.
The British ambassador to Saudi Arabia,
Sherard Cowper-Coles, said the shooting underlined the "serious and
chronic terrorist threat" faced by people in Saudi Arabia, and
British and US expatriates particularly.