Al Qaida planning major attack on U.S. interests in Saudi Arabia

Thursday, December 4, 2003

Al Qaida is planning a major suicide attack against a U.S. compound in Saudi Arabia.

U.S. officials said Al Qaida has targeted American interests in the Saudi kingdom for what could be the organization's next round of attacks. The officials said the targets appear to include American-inhabited compounds, companies and the U.S. embassy.

"We believe that at least one plan for a major attack on American interests was foiled in Saudi Arabia," an official who deals with security threats in Saudi Arabia said. "We and the Saudis have also collected sufficient information to conclude that Al Qaida is in the advance stage of planning another suicide strike."

The U.S. embassy has been closed for a week and was scheduled to reopen on Wednesday, Middle East Newsline reported.

On Tuesday, the U.S. embassy in Saudi Arabia warned of an Al Qaida strike on Western compounds. The embassy said at least one residential complex in Riyad has come under surveillance of suspected Islamic insurgents.

"Recent confirmed information indicates that the Seder Village housing compound in Riyad has been under active surveillance by terrorist elements," the embassy said. "Other Western compounds within the kingdom may also be targeted."

Saudi Arabia contains about 30,000 American nationals. Britain has about the same number of citizens in the kingdom.

Officials said the State Department has not decided to evacuate Americans from either the Seder compound or any other housing facility in Riyad. They said security at Seder, which contains about 280 houses, has been bolstered and Saudi guards have been ordered to check all who seek to enter.

The Saudi National Guard has also deployed armored vehicles around the compound. Seder has also been surrounded by a wall of concrete blocks and sand barriers.

The U.S. embassy imposed new restrictions on the movement of its American employees. The measures, issued after consultations with Saudi authorities, banned U.S. staffers and their families from visiting housing compounds in Riyad from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. The exception was official embassy business.

Saudi security sources agreed that Al Qaida has been planning a major suicide attack on Western interests in the kingdom. They said authorities foiled what could have been the destruction of a Western compound in Riyad in late November when security agents killed an Al Qaida operative and captured more than one ton of explosives.

U.S. officials said the new threats of an Al Qaida attack have bolstered the security dialogue between Riyad and Washington. They said a senior U.S. official would be sent to Riyad to review security measures to protect Americans in the kingdom.

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