Bin Laden's son, other Al Qaida left Iran after Saudi attacks

Wednesday, May 21, 2003

The United States has closed all of its diplomatic installations in Saudi Arabia in anticipation of an imminent terrorist attack.

Officials said a U.S. interagency group that has been investigating the suicide attacks in Riyad last week found new information that indicates they were directed by Al Qaida leaders from Iran. According to a report from a London-based publication today, those leaders left Iran shortly after the attacks.

Officials said the U.S. interagency group obtained details that point to another wave of strikes against American interests in the kingdom, Middle East Newsline reported. They said Al Qaida has recruited up to 300 operatives for its campaign to drive the United States out of the Saudi kingdom.

The officials said the Al Qaida network in Saudi Arabia is believed to have been directed by organization leaders who have found safe haven in Iran. Officials have acknowledged that several Al Qaida leaders, including the son of Osama Bin Laden, operate in Iran and said the Bush administration has raised the issue with Teheran.

On Wednesday, the London-based A-Sharq Al Awsat daily reported that Al Qaida leaders in Iran left the country for the region near the Afghan-Pakistani border. The newspaper, quoting sources from Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps, said 20 Al Qaida operatives, including the son of Osama Bin Laden, Saad, and the organization's so-called military commander Seif Al Adel, left Iran last week after the bombings in Riyad.

The U.S. installations were closed on Wednesday and are expected to remain closed throughout the week.The State Department ordered the immediate closure of the U.S. embassy in Riyad as well as missions and consulates throughout the kingdom.

Officials said the closure came in wake of information that Al Qaida planned a fresh wave of suicide attacks against U.S. interests in Saudi Arabia.

The officials said the information also suggested that Al Qaida was intent on striking targets in Europe and the United States. They said intercepts of communications by Al Qaida supporters suggest plans for an imminent attack.

Britain and Germany also closed their embassies on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, in Washington, the Bush administration raised the U.S. threat level from code yellow to code orange. Orange denotes a high level of alert.

The U.S. embassy in Riyad said the offices in the Saudi capital as well as in Jedda and Dhahran might reopen on Sunday. But State Department officials in Washington said the closure could be extended into next week if the alert continues.

"There is credible information that further terrorist attacks are being planned against unspecified targets in Saudi Arabia," State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said. "We certainly know that Al Qaida is one of the threats, maybe the most significant type of threat that we think exists in Saudi Arabia."

"We have concluded that the attack in Saudi Arabia was Al Qaida," White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said. "In Morocco, it remains under review. Clearly, Al Qaida has lost its central training grounds. It is far dispersed, making anything they do much, much harder. But nevertheless, the ability of people to drive car bombs still is a real problem, day-to-day problem, in many parts of the world."

"There's no question but that there are Al Qaida in Iran," Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said on Tuesday. "There's also a good deal of speculation about their role in what took place in Saudi Arabia. And I'm not going to get into it. That's for others to do."

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