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US warns of more attacks after Saudi bomb kills 17
( 2003-11-10 09:01) (Agencies)

Rescuers worked into the night to pull bodies from the site of a suicide bombing that killed at least 17 people in Riyadh on Sunday as the United States warned al Qaeda might be planning more such attacks.

Saudi Arabia, which is battling a surge in Islamist violence, vowed to hunt down those linked to the attack and, along with the United States, blamed al Qaeda.

Rescue teams were still searching the wreckage more than 24 hours after the attack on the Muhaya residential compound, which housed mostly Arab expatriate workers.

Bombers posing as police blew up their rigged car in the compound. In addition to the dead, officials said around 120 people were wounded, including 36 children.

"The search and the investigation continues," an Interior Ministry official said in remarks carried on state television, confirming the latest toll.

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, who arrived in Riyadh on Sunday, told reporters:

"I can't say that last night's attack was the only or the last attack. My view is these al Qaeda terrorists -- and I believe it was al Qaeda -- would prefer to have many such events."

A Saudi security source in Riyadh said the attack was an "al Qaeda operation."

Supporters of the Saudi-born Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda group have threatened to attack Saudi Arabia's rulers and Westerners in the kingdom. Bin Laden last month vowed to strike American targets inside and outside the United States.

Saudi Arabia has been under pressure to act against al Qaeda since the attacks on U.S. cities on September 11, 2001. Most of the attackers were Saudis and al Qaeda is widely held responsible.

Saudi Arabia's ambassador to Britain, Prince Turki al-Faisal, told Reuters in London that attacking a lightly-defended target such as the compound was a "clear sign of a desperate group that wants to show it can do things."

"I think it's a measure of their desperation and the fact that they realize they are being hunted severely by the authorities," he said.

"They want to show that they can do something, after all the successes that we've had in tracking these people down over the last six months. There have been many arrests, many discoveries of arms caches, munitions and explosives. So these people are in a desperate state."


The blast ripped an avenue of destruction through the 200 villas in the compound, just days after Western nations issued fresh terror alerts and Washington shut its missions in the kingdom, the world's biggest oil exporter.

The Saudi ministry official said seven Lebanese, four Egyptians, one Saudi, one Sudanese and four unidentified people had been killed. The dead included five children.

Four Americans of Arab origin and six Canadians were among the injured, whose countries of origin also included African and Asian states.

There were no details of the attackers, except that Saudi sources said there had been at least two.

Western embassies in Saudi urged their nationals to remain vigilant and restrict their movements.

Interior Minister Prince Nayef said the kingdom would not be shaken by the attack and vowed: "We will get the perpetrators, no matter how long it takes."

In May a triple suicide bombing at Riyadh housing compounds killed 35, including nine Americans, and was blamed on al Qaeda.

In October, Saudi officials said the kingdom had arrested nearly 600 people since those bombings, around 190 of whom have since been released. Police and militants have been clashing on a steady basis since May, and there have been frequent seizures of large caches of weapons and explosives.

Magnus Ranstorp, terrorism expert at Britain's St Andrews University, said Sunday's attack was clearly al Qaeda-inspired and part of a long-term campaign to bring down what militants regard as a corrupt, Western-backed regime.

"This is nothing to do with the war against the West...(It's about) trying to mobilize strength against the Saudi regime."

But Prince Turki said the attack was "not the sign of anybody who is going to do more, or of someone who is going to succeed in upsetting the social balance or the political structure of the country."

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