No group claimed responsibility for the clash, but Saudi Arabia is among countries that have joined the US-led coalition carrying out air strikes against jihadists from the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq. "A border patrol in Suwayf, in the northern Arar region, came under fire by terrorist elements," an interior spokesman said in a statement carried by the official SPA news agency.
As security forces killed one assailant, another "detonated an explosive belt he was carrying", killing himself and two guards and wounding another, the ministry said. In a later statement, the ministry said a total of three guards were killed, including General Odah al-Balawi. Saudi media had reported that a senior commander of the border guard was among the dead.
Two assailants were shot dead and two detonated belts of explosives, the ministry said. Saudi news website Sabq reported that Odeh commanded the border guards in the northern region. The statement said the four were "trying to cross the Saudi border", but it did not clarify in which direction.