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Violence erupted along the Saudi-Yemeni border early Tuesday as a gunman killed two Saudi border police officers and wounded a third before being gunned down himself, the Saudi interior minister said.

The man, who has yet to be identified, was trying to cross the border into Yemen from the Saudi province of Najran in a four-wheel drive vehicle when the border guards interceded. The man opened fire with a machine gun, killing an officer and a sergeant and wounding another sergeant, said Maj. Gen. Mansour al-Turki, the spokesman for the ministry.

The assailant appeared to have a large supply of ammunition, as he continued driving and firing as he attempted to race his way through the Wadia border crossing before being shot dead himself, General Turki said. His identity is still under investigation.

The Yemeni-Saudi border has long been a conduit for the smuggling of drugs, weapons and people from the impoverished southern nation on the Arabian peninsula into its richer northern neighbor. Stability along the border is one reason the kingdom takes a keen interest in the outcome of the current power vacuum in Yemen, with the country’s embattled president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, being treated in a Saudi military hospital for injuries sustained in an attack on his palace mosque last Friday.

His aides say he will return in a matter of days, but Yemeni opposition groups who have been organizing street protests for four months to demand his ouster are maneuvering to set of a transitional government in his absence.

On Tuesday, news agencies reported intense fighting in the south of Yemen where militants believed to have ties to Al Qaeda seized control of a coastal city, Zinjibar, nearly two weeks ago. Reuters reported 15 people were killed as residents and government troops increased their efforts to retake the city.

Photo: Saudi soldiers deploy near the border with Yemen in the desert region of Khuba. Two Saudi border guards were shot dead by a man who attempted to cross the frontier into Yemen before he was killed by Saudi forces. AFP photo

NYT

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