Al Qaida bombs Saudi security headquarters

Thursday, April 22, 2004

ABU DHABI After more than two months of efforts, Al Qaida has succeeded in bombing a major Saudi government installation. A suicide car bomber blew himself up outside the Saudi security headquarters in Riyad on Wednesday. At least four people, including a senior Saudi officer, were killed and 150 were injured in the attack. The headquarters was heavily damaged.

A Saudi Interior Ministry statement said the car bomber failed in his attempt to ram his vehicle into a complex that houses several security agencies, including the police and General Security headquarters. Instead, the ministry said the driver exploded the car about 30 meters away from the compound gate.

"When the guards there dealt with it as the situation dictates, the driver blew up the vehicle 30 meters from the entrance," an Interior Ministry official was quoted by the official Saudi Press Agency as saying. "The blast caused destruction in the surrounding area and casualties among ordinary citizens and security men."

Most of the complex, including the seven-story General Security building, was heavily damaged, Middle East Newsline reported. A police colonel, Abdul Rahman Al Saleh, was identified as one of those killed in the blast, caused by a bomb filled with ammonia nitrate.

The attack took place during the visit by U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage to Riyad. Armitage met Saudi Foreign Minister Saud Al Faisal as security forces rushed to the scene of the bombing. Last week, the State Department ordered non-essential diplomats and their families to leave the kingdom in wake of intelligence information regarding an imminent Al Qaida attack.

"The Saudis and the U.S. have cooperated on counter-terrorism, and the information was jointly shared," Armitage said after his meeting. "We made a decision that we needed to draw down our embassy. I think the terrible bombing here in Riyad today showed the wisdom of that decision."

Later, an Al Qaida-aligned group, Al Haramein Brigade, claimed responsibility for the bombing and linked the attack to the Saudi killing last month of the commander of the Al Qaida cell in the kingdom, Khaled Ali Haj. The group has been targeting Saudi security officers and institutions for the last eight months.

"Al Haramain Brigades in the Arabian peninsula succeeded in bombing the command headquarters of emergency and anti-terrorism forces of the Interior Ministry of the apostate government," Al Haramain said in a statement posted on Islamic websites. "We are dedicating ourselves to fighting you [Saudi Arabia] and we will show you the punishment of heresy, apostasy and crime."

Saudi security sources said the car bombing culminated more than two months of efforts by Islamic insurgents to attack a major Saudi security target in the Riyad area. The sources said security forces had captured five vehicles laden with explosives meant to have been used in a series of suicide attacks against Saudi security and Western diplomatic installations in the kingdom.

Over the last few weeks, Al Qaida has targeted security officers in the kingdom. At least 10 security officers were killed in a two-week period, most of them in the Riyad area.

"Their morale is incredibly high," Saudi Interior Minister Prince Nayef Bin Abdul Aziz said of the security forces. "Attacking security forces shows the bankruptcy of the terror cells, which we are determined to track down."

On April 8, Saudi Arabia faced another threat from Al Qaida when the new leader of the organization's network in the kingdom called for renewed attacks on the United States and its Arab allies. An Islamic website, Dirasat, showed a masked man identified as Abdul Aziz Al Muqrin reading a statement in which he called on Muslims to attack Americans.

Muqrin was said to have been appointed head of Al Qaida in the Persian Gulf region in March 2004 after the killing of his predecessor, Haj, a Yemeni national.

Copyright 2004 East West Services, Inc.

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