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American shot at Saudi naval base

Friday, May 2, 2003

ABU DHABI A U.S. defense contractor has been shot and injured in an attack in a Saudi naval base.

The shooting in the Saudi naval base came one day after the U.S. embassy in Riyad warned Americans of the prospect of an imminent attack by insurgency groups in the kingdom.

The official Saudi Press Agency said a contractor representative was shot four times in the abdomen in the naval base in the eastern city of Al Jubail. The contractor was hired in a project by the Saudi Royal Navy.

Later, Western diplomatic sources said the attacker was a Saudi naval officer who served on the base. They did not provide more details.

The embassy said insurgents were believed to be in the final phase in plans to attack U.S. interests in Saudi Arabia, Middle East Newsline reported.

The agency said an anonymous gunman fired shots at the contractor, identified as George Papes, an employee with Pan Nesna. The company is a service subcontractor for the Saudi navy in Al Jubail.

Papes was reported to be in good condition in a Saudi naval hospital. The attacker escaped the King Abdul Aziz naval base.

"An unidentified person at the King Abdul Aziz naval base in Jubail opened fire on George Papes, an American working for a company under contract with the naval forces," a Saudi Defense Ministry spokesman said.

"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."

U.S. military personnel use King Abdul Aziz naval base for the training of the Saudi navy. The base was built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 1980 and is operated by the United States Military Training Mission to Saudi Arabia. The base contains a school for Saudi naval officers.

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the State Department urged embassy staffers and their families to leave the kingdom, an advisory that has not been rescinded.

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