U.S. warns of imminent attack in Jedda, Saudi Arabia

Friday, May 16, 2003

The United States has warned of another Al Qaida attack in Saudi Arabia.

U.S. officials said Islamic insurgents have targeted the Saudi port city of Jedda for attack. They said the attack against Americans in that Red Sea port was believed to be imminent.

"The U.S. consulate general in Jedda has received an unconfirmed report that a possible terrorist attack in the Al Hamra district of Jedda may occur in the near future," the State Department said in a statement on late Thursday. "While we cannot certify the credibility of the threat, in light of recent events this information is being shared with the American community."

An estimated 35,000 Americans live in Saudi Arabia. Several thousand U.S. nationals are said to live in the Jedda area, many of them connected with U.S. defense projects in the kingdom, Middle East Newsline reported. Jedda is the largest city and commercial center in the kingdom.

Officials said U.S. diplomats and other staffers have moved out of Jedda. They said other Americans are leaving Saudi Arabia on the first available flight.

"Some consulate families resident in the Al Hamra district have elected to move to different quarters," the department said. "U.S. citizens are encouraged to maintain a high level of vigilance and to take appropriate steps to increase their security awareness."

The Jedda region contains several Saudi military facilities from the air force, air defenses as well as the U.S. Military Training Mission. The U.S. mission supports such activities as the Saudi C-130 air transport fleet.

Officials said they expect additional Al Qaida suicide strikes over the next few weeks in wake of the group's success in striking Western compounds in Riyad. They said Al Qaida insurgents and their allies have designated what they termed soft targets in Saudi Arabia and east African states.

The United States has criticized Saudi Arabia for its failure to bolster security around Western compounds in wake of alerts of an Al Qaida attack.

Officials said Saudi intelligence and security agencies had dismissed the prospect of a major Al Qaida attack and insisted that the deployment of National Guard troops around the compound was sufficient.

On Thursday, the Bush administration refused to confirm reports that Al Qaida leaders in Iran ordered the attack against Western compounds in Riyad.

Saudi Arabia has asserted that the Al Qaida attack was planned abroad, but did not cite Iran.

"I haven't seen anything definitive on the cell or who was behind it," a senior State Department official said on Thursday.

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