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Americans in Saudi Arabia told to brace for imminent attack

Thursday, May 1, 2003

ABU DHABI The United States has warned of an imminent attack on its nationals in Saudi Arabia.

The U.S. embassy in Saudi Arabia has relayed an alert to Americans in the kingdom that warned of an imminent attack by Islamic insurgents. The warning said insurgents are believed to be in the final phase in plans to attack U.S. interests in Saudi Arabia.

"The embassy advises the American community in Saudi Arabia that it has received information that terrorist groups may be in the final phases of planning terrorist attacks on American interests in Saudi Arabia," a warden message issued by the embassy on Wednesday said. "We have no information as to the likely target. Terrorists do not distinguish between official and civilian targets."

About 40,000 Americans are reported in Saudi Arabia, about a third fewer than in the early 1990s. In February, the State Department urged embassy staffers and their families to leave the kingdom, an advisory that has not been rescinded, Middle East Newsline reported.

The warden message said the embassy has advised its employees and dependents to limit travel to essential business. The embassy urged U.S. nationals in Saudi Arabia to take measures to increase their security awareness.

"Potential targets may include facilities where American citizens and other foreigners congregate or visit, such as residential areas, clubs, restaurants, places of worship, schools, hotels, outdoor recreation events or resorts and beaches," the message said. "U.S. citizens should increase their security awareness when at such locations."

The embassy did not cite which insurgency group might be planning an attack on Americans. But later U.S. diplomatic sources said the reference was to Al Qaida.

Saudi officials acknowledged the U.S. warning and said the kingdom has intensified efforts against Al Qaida. But they said they were not aware of an imminent or specific threat to the American community in the kingdom.

"There is nothing that currently suggests that something like this is imminent, but given the circumstances and developments taking place something might [happen]," Saudi Interior Minister Prince Nayef Bin Abdul Aziz said. "I know nothing of this matter. This is a matter relating to the country concerned and we have not received any information from anyone regarding this matter."

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