At least 17 killed, 122 wounded in suspected al Qaeda attack on residential compound in Riyadh
Three blasts rocked a residential compound in the Saudi capital late Saturday night, killing 17 people and injuring 122, in what a government official said was a suicide car bombing. According to unofficial sources in Saudi Arabia, however, it is feared the toll could rise as high as 30.
According to police officials at the scene, among the dead were four Lebanese, one Sudanese and an Indian. The 122 injured, many of whom are in grave condition, include three Americans and three Canadians, all of Arab descent.
A Saudi sources said most of the wounded were believed to be children because their parents were out shopping during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, when Muslims fast during the day and have dinners and parties late into the night.
Meanwhile, officials and diplomats said Sunday that also four Egyptians were killed in the bombing. An Egyptian mother, father and two children perished in the blast and were found Sunday under the debris, according to Cairo's embassy.
Lebanon's embassy in Riyadh confirmed four Lebanese, including a woman and two children, killed in the blast and 24 Lebanese were wounded, some in critical condition.
Just before the midnight blasts, an unknown number of attackers broke into the upscale compound of about 200 houses, a Saudi official said, and gunfire was heard.
An Interior Ministry official told The Associated Press early Sunday the attack was a suicide car bombing, and that two security guards were killed. The official said he believed it was launched by al-Qaeda because of similarities to a May 12 attack in the capital that killed 35 people. In comments published Sunday on the Web site of Saudi daily Okaz newspaper, Interior Minister Prince Nayef said they could not rule out a connection to suspected al-Qaeda cells targeted in recent sweeps, as a number of suspects from those cells were still at large.
Immediately after the explosion Saturday night, there were widely conflicting reports of the number of dead. An official at a Riyadh hospital said dozens of people were killed, but, when contacted again, said only that some people were dead.
One resident in the compound, Rabie Hadeka, told Al-Arabiya television that "about 20 to 30 people have been killed and 50 to 60 injured." She told Al-Arabiya that "shattered glass was spread everywhere after we heard three very strong explosions."
Al-Arabiya television reported that the bodies of the attackers had been found.
A woman living in the compound told The Associated Press in a telephone interview that "there is lot of blood" at the scene of the explosions.
U.S. State Department spokeswoman Amanda Batt said from Washington that one American was wounded and one was unaccounted for.
Diplomats and officials said most of the residents of the compound's houses were Lebanese. Some Saudis also live there, plus a few German, French and Italian families.
The Arab League has condemned the attack in Riyadh. A spokesman for the Arab League's Secretary General said Sunday the Arab League condemns and deplores the "terror" act perpetuated in Riyadh. The spokesman noted that the Arab League's Secretary General condemns all forms of "terror" acts which undermine security and stability, and terrify innocent civilians.
"By perpetuating such a terror act, they have not respected the sanctity of the Holy Month of Ramadan," the spokesman was quoted as saying by the SPA.
On his part, Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharazi has also condemned the attack. In a statement carried by the Iranian News Agency (IRNA) on Sunday, Kharazi said "killing of women and children during the month of Ramadan runs counter to the noble Islamic values."
Kharazi urged the Muslim countries to take deterrent measures against "terror" acts. (Albawaba.com)
© 2003 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)