Former NZ student turned Isis bomb manufacturer shot dead wearing suicide vest, Saudi government says
The man who planned a July attack on one of Islam's holiest sites was as a former scholarship student in New Zealand who abandoned his studies to join the Islamic State group in Syria.
Taie bin Salem bin Yaslam al-Saya'ari died alongside another extremist in a shootout on Saturday with officers in Riyadh, wearing a suicide bomb vest and clutching a machine gun, Saudi Arabia's Interior Ministry said on Sunday (NZT).
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Immigration NZ (INZ) said he first arrived in New Zealand in July 2008 and left in November 2013. During that time he had a series of student visas.
INZ area manager Darren Calder did not say whether he had left and returned to this country during that five-year period.
For legal and privacy reasons it was unable to make any further comment, he said.
The Saudi Interior Ministry said Al-Saya'ari manufactured the suicide bomb used in the July 4 attack outside of the Medina mosque where the Prophet Muhammad is buried, an assault which killed four Saudi security force members and wounded five.
Millions of Muslims from around the world visit the mosque every year as part of their pilgrimage to Mecca.
The same day in July, separate suicide bomb attacks targeted a Shiite mosque in eastern Saudi Arabia and near the US Consulate in Jiddah.
Al-Saya'ari previously was a scholarship student in New Zealand who quit school to travel to Syria and fight in the country's civil war, the ministry said.
He was enrolled in the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Program for Foreign Scholarships to study engineering but failed to get a degree, Arab News reported.
It said he later travelled to Turkey, Sudan and Yemen before returning to the kingdom.
The path of the other militant killed on Saturday, Talal bin Samran al-Sa'aeidi, also showed the challenge faced in confronting the Islamic State group within the kingdom.
He previously was arrested for fighting abroad and underwent counselling when he returned to the kingdom, the Interior Ministry said in a statement.
The militant threat from the Islamic State group is the most serious the kingdom has faced since battling an al-Qaeda insurgency over a decade ago.