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Saudi diplomat killed in Bangkok

BANGKOK, Thailand -- Police launched a manhunt Thursday for a gunman who shot and killed a Saudi Arabian diplomat, but were unable to determine whether the motive for the killing was personal or political, a senior police official said.

'We believe the gunman is still in Bangkok and will do our best to get him as soon as possible,' said Pol. Lt. Gen Pravit Wongviseth, first assistant to the national police chief.

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Pravit told reporters the motive for the murder might be international political conflict or a personal grudge arising from the victim's embassy duties in issuing visas for workers entering Saudi Arabia.

Saleh Abdullah Al-Malik, third secretary at the Saudi Embassy in Bangkok, was gunned down Wednesday afternoon on a busy main street.

Pravit said the 35-year-old Saudi diplomat was known to be very strict in following procedures on the issuance of visas. Thai press reports said this and a new set of visa regulations had caused conflicts with companies sending contract workers to Saudi Arabia.

Pravit described the gunman as about 30years old, tall with a moustache.

'We believe the gunman is not a foreigner,' he said.

At least one witness earlier described the assailant as 'Arab-looking,' but Pravit said the investigation had so far turned up no other indication that foreigners were involved. He noted that a Thai man with a moustache could appear to be an Arab.

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He also said the killer was unlikely to be a professional because he used a small-caliber 6.35 automatic pistol. Most professional killers in Thailand use higher caliber weapons to be certain of a kill, he said.

Pravit said investigators were set to interview Saudi Embassy staff later Thursday. The staff earlier refused to cooperate with the investigation.

A guard at the embassy said it was closed until Monday.

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