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MILITANTS, POLICE CLASH IN MECCA; FOUR KILLED

Islamic militants clashed with Saudi security forces Thursday in Islam's holiest city in a gunbattle that killed two militants and two policemen, the latest in the kingdom's confrontation with al-Qaida-linked militants, security officials said.

The fight started when four militants in a taxi -- a driver and three others disguised in women's all-covering robes -- tried to cross through a checkpoint into Mecca in the evening, said Brig. Gen. Mansour al-Turki, an Interior Ministry spokesman.

When the group was stopped, the four tried to flee. Police captured the driver, but the three other militants fled with police in pursuit, al-Turki told the state-run television station Al-Ekhbariya.

Several security officials in Mecca said the three entered the neighborhood of Umm al-Joud and took shelter in houses. Several hours of fighting followed.