Keeping Up the Fear: U.S. says militants planning attacks in Saudi Arabia
Reuters | July 20, 2005
By Dominic Evans
RIYADH - The United States warned its citizens in Saudi Arabia on Wednesday that militants were planning fresh attacks in the world's biggest oil exporter.
A statement issued by the U.S. embassy in Riyadh said it had no specific details about possible targets or timing of the attacks but advised Americans to keep a low profile.
Saudi Arabia has been battling a two-year wave of violence by supporters of Saudi-born al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden trying to expel Westerners from the country and destabilize the pro-Western royal family.
"The American embassy in Riyadh advises all American citizens living in Saudi Arabia that it has received indications of operational planning for a terrorist attack or attacks in the kingdom," an embassy statement said.
"The embassy has no specific information concerning timing, target or method of any possible attack(s)."
Saudi officials were not immediately available to comment on the warning, which briefly pushed oil prices up 60 cents, but one Saudi security source said there was little sign of any imminent attack and said previous alerts by Western missions had proven unfounded.
"It isn't a result of any specific new threat, except that there are ongoing, credible threats," said Angela Aggelar, spokeswoman for the Consular Affairs division of the State Department in Washington.
"It's just one of our frequent warnings to Americans in the area, to remind them that the security situation there is always pretty grave."
Suicide bombers hit several compounds housing mainly foreigners in 2003 and gunmen waged a series of attacks against Westerners last year, including a daylight raid on the U.S. consulate in the Red Sea city of Jeddah.
Saudi security forces have also been targets.
Wednesday's warning follows a relative lull in militant attacks in Saudi Arabia. The last high profile strike was the bombing in December of the Interior Ministry in Riyadh.
Authorities have killed or arrested all but three men on a list of 26 most wanted suspects published in late 2003. Last month they issued another list of 36 wanted men they are still hunting down.
One of those suspects, Mohammad Ibrahim al-Hayyari, was killed in a fierce gunbattle in Riyadh two weeks ago.
"There is no heightened sense of alert, although there are sill remnants (of the militant cells) that the authorities are trying to pick up," Saudi security analyst Nawaf Obaid said.
Militants have killed 91 foreign nationals and Saudi civilians in the last two years and caused more than 1 billion riyals ($270 million) worth of damage, Saudi officials say.
Forty one security force members and 112 militants have also been killed in clashes.
(Additional reporting by Caroline Drees in Washington)