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Massey student killed in Saudi shootout

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 9/01/2017

A former New Zealand student killed by police in Saudi Arabia after he allegedly planned a terrorist attack on one of Islam's holiest sites was expected to return to study before joining Islamic State.

Taie bin Salem bin Yaslam al-Saya'ari was on a scholarship at Massey University, one year off completing his engineering degree before he is believed to have joined the terrorist group.

Al-Saya'ari was one of two students killed in a shootout with police in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on Saturday according to the country's Interior Ministry.

A Massey University spokesman confirmed he was studying toward a Bachelor of Engineering with honours, majoring in mechatronics.

He was a student at the university's Albany campus between 2010 and 2013, studying on a scholarship.

"He hadn't completed. We were expecting him to finish the following year but he didn't come back," the spokesman told NZ Newswire.

There was no reason given for his failure to return, the spokesman said.

Immigration New Zealand earlier confirmed the suspected terrorist, also known as Taye' al-Say'ari, first arrived in New Zealand on a student visa in 2008.

He left in November 2013 and is believed to have travelled to Syria to fight for Islamic State.

Prime Minister Bill English said on Monday the news illustrated "just how international the terrorist threat is" and the government is monitoring radicalisation in New Zealand.

"We'd be concerned if that was happening ... there isn't much evidence of that happening at scale or in ways that are alarming, but we keep an eye on it," he said.

According to authorities al-Saya'ari later travelled to Turkey, Sudan and Yemen before returning to Saudi Arabia.

The Interior Ministry said it was there that al-Sayari made the suicide bomb used in the July 4 attack outside of the Medina mosque, where four Saudi security force members were killed.

Al-Saya'ari had been on a wanted list for a year, the ministry said in a statement.

Major General Mansour Al-Turki said al-Saya'ari and the other student killed, Talal bin Samran al-Sa'aeidi, started firing their weapons and one security force member was injured before the men were killed.

Two explosive belts, two machine guns and a home-made hand grenade as well as two small basins filled with suspected explosive chemical materials were found.

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