Britain: Al Qaida smuggled missiles into Saudi Arabia

Monday, October 27, 2003

LONDON Britain has warned of imminent Islamic insurgency attacks against Westerners in Saudi Arabia.

British officials said the warning came after new evidence was relayed by Riyad based on the interrogation of captured Al Qaida suspects. They said the interrogations confirmed that Al Qaida has smuggled anti-aircraft missiles into the kingdom in plans to strike incoming Western airliners.

"We advise British nationals against all but essential travel to Saudi Arabia," a warning by the British Foreign Office said. "We believe that terrorists may be in the final phases of planning attacks."

The British warning was the first that raised the prospect of an imminent attack in the Saudi kingdom. The United States has also posted warnings to its nationals, but did not relay an immediate threat.

Officials said Britain has received information that Al Qaida has completed plans for a series of attacks on Westerners. They said the targets would probably target some of the 30,000 British nationals in Saudi Arabia, including employees of defense contractors.

U.S. officials did not confirm the prospect of an imminent attack. But they said Washington has received warnings of the prospect of Al Qaida strikes during the Islamic fast month of Ramadan, which begins this week.

"The [U.S.] embassy continues to receive information that terrorist groups within the kingdom are still active and planning future operations," the U.S. embassy in Riyad said in a statement. "It is the embassy's assessment that terrorist groups may place special operational significance on the upcoming month of Ramadan."

For its part, Saudi Arabia has not acknowledged such plans by Al Qaida.

Saudi officials said the British warning was not coordinated with the Arabian kingdom.

"The kingdom wishes that when such advice is given by sources outside the kingdom that there would be coordination between the people giving the advice and the authorities in the kingdom," a statement by Saudi ambassador to Britain, Prince Turki Al Faisal, said.

Over the last two weeks, Saudi security forces raided several Al Qaida strongholds and found explosive belts used by suicide bombers.

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