Al Qaida attacks U.S. defense contractors in Saudi Arabia

At least 20 killed, including 10 Americans

Tuesday, May 13, 2003

ABU DHABI At least 10 Americans were killed in a series of Al Qaida suicide attacks on U.S. defense facilities in Saudi Arabia.

Al Qaida insurgents entered three housing compounds operated by U.S. defense contractors in Riyad and rammed cars full of explosives into apartment buildings occupied by Americans and other Western nationals. At least 20 people including Australians, Lebanese and Saudis were said to have been killed and more than 150 injured in four bombing attacks that ended on early Tuesday.

Ten of the casualties were identified as Americans who worked for U.S. defense firms, Middle East Newsline reported. At least 60 of those injured were said to have been U.S. citizens, including employees of the Boeing Co.

"It seems we have lost 10 Americans killed," U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, who arrived in Riyad hours after the attack, said. "Many other nationalities were also killed."

The bombings represented the bloodiest attack on Westerners since 1996, when 19 U.S. soldiers were killed and nearly 400 were injured in the eastern city of Khobar. In that attack, a fuel truck packed with explosives rammed into a housing complex filled with U.S. military personnel.

The Al Qaida attacks took place as Western nations began withdrawing military forces from the kingdom. Britain, France and the United States plan to complete the pullout of aircraft and troops by the end of the summer.

Al Qaida insurgents used the same method in entering the Western compounds in the three Riyad neighborhoods. Eyewitnesses said the attackers stormed the gates of the compounds, drove their cars inside and crashed into the residences, which contained U.S. defense contractor employees and their families The targets included the U.S. firm Venyl, a consultant to the Saudi National Guard, headed by Crown Prince Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz. Another target was the Saudi Maintenance Co., a joint venture between Saudi nationals and the Washington-based Frank E. Basil, Inc.

Saudi Interior Minister Prince Nayef Bin Abdul Aziz said the suicide strikes were launched by Al Qaida and targeted U.S. interests. Prince Nayef said the kingdom has been placed on high alert for additional attacks. The son of the deputy governor of Riyad was also said to have been killed in the latest Al Qaida bombings.

Authorities have been preparing for the prospect of an Al Qaida bombing campaign in Riyad and other major Saudi cities. The government has issued a new directive that requires hotels and shopping centers to post security guards and search all cars and luggage for explosives and weapons.

Al Qaida was said to have revived operations in Saudi Arabia and has targeted both Westerners as well as the Saudi royal family. Western diplomatic sources said Saudi authorities have assessed that Al Qaida established a 150-member cell in the Riyad area for attacks against U.S. and other Western nationals. The Al Qaida network was said to have obtained support from smugglers and tribes along the Saudi-Yemeni border.

On May 1, the State Department warned of an impending attack on the estimated 35,000 U.S. citizens in Saudi Arabia. On the same day, a U.S. defense contractor was shot and wounded by a Saudi naval officer in the King Abdul Aziz naval base in Al Jubail.

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