Reuters International

DUBAI (Reuters) - Saudi security forces killed two militant suspects and arrested a third in a two-day operation in southwestern Bisha province, the Ministry of Interior said on Sunday, accusing them of involvement in deadly attacks claimed by Islamic State.

Security personnel killed two men in an exchange of gunfire during a chase to thwart an "imminent" attack on Friday, said ministry spokesman Mansour al-Turki in a televised statement.

They found explosive belts and machine guns in the men's car, he added.

A third suspect, named as Oqab al-Otaibi, escaped the scene and was arrested the following day.

The statement said the three men were suspects in the killing of a senior security officer outside the capital Riyadh in April. Two of them, including Otaibi, were also allegedly involved in a suicide bombing last August of a security forces mosque in Abha, capital of southwestern Asir province, in which 15 people died.

Islamic State claimed responsibility for both attacks, but the ministry did not directly implicate the group in its statement on Sunday.

Saudi Arabia, the world's top oil exporter, has been hit by a spate of deadly shootings and bombings targeting security forces or its Shi'ite Muslim minority since last year. Islamic State's local branches have claimed many of them.

The group views Shi'ites as heretics but is also bitterly opposed to the wealthy Gulf kingdom's Sunni Muslim rulers, whom it regards as having betrayed Islam through close ties with the West.

(Reporting By Raissa Kasolowsky)

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