Riyadh bombing attacks: More than 90 killed, al Qaeda claims responsibility
Hours before a visit by the US secretary of state, attackers shot their way into three gated compounds housing Westerners and others and set off car bombs in Saudi Arabia's capital city. At least 91 people were killed and 194 were injured, hospital and security officials said.
Saudi authorities also found nine charred bodies believed to be those of the suicide attackers, a Saudi Interior Ministry official said.
According to Al-Arabiya television channel, Saudi security forces exchanged fire with the attackers inside one of the compounds. The network also reported that many charred bodies were seen being taken from ambulances at a local hospital.
The Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten, on its Web site, quoted Niels Joergen Secher, a Danish doctor at Riyadh's King Faisal hospital, as saying that between 40 to 50 bodies were brought to his hospital.
A U.S. official said overall casualties appeared to be in the hundreds and that several members of the Saudi National Guard died in the attacks. He also said British, German, French, Australian and other Arab citizens were among the dead and wounded.
The string of attacks, carried out by suicide bombers, occurred in quick succession Monday night, capped by a fourth explosion early Tuesday outside the headquarters of a joint U.S.-Saudi owned company in Riyadh, AP reported.
"The three explosions that occurred in eastern Riyadh were suicide bombings," Saudi Interior Minister Prince Nayef told Al Riyadh daily. "They were set off by cars stuffed with explosives that were driven into the targeted compounds," he said.
U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Robert Jordan, told CNN that at least 40 of the injured were Americans and said there were unconfirmed reports "of a couple of American deaths."
Jordan joined other U.S. and Saudi officials in saying that Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda terror network was suspected of being behind the bombings. "It's certainly a prime suspect, I would say," Jordan said.
In a message received by a Saudi weekly newspaper Al-Qaeda network has implied it carried out the attacks. The group had "been planning major operations for a long time in the Gulf where it had stocked large amounts of arms and explosives," Al-Qaeda operative Abu Mohamed al-Ablaj wrote in an e-mail to Al-Majallah, which is published from London.
"The execution of this plan was not hampered by the recent announcement by the Saudi authorities of the seizure of large quantities of arms and explosives in the kingdom and the hunt for 19 people," said Ablaj, alias mullah Seif Eddin. He described himself as the "coordinator of the Mujahedin training centre" run by al-Qaeda.
Last week, Al-Majallah, citing an e-mail message from a newly-appointed Al-Qaeda spokesman, Thabet ibn Qais, said that “an attack against America was inevitable.”
Powell, on his way to the Saudi capital from Jordan, said the latest anti-Western attacks bore the stamp of al Qaeda and its Saudi-born leader Osama bin Laden. Shortly after arriving at Riyadh airport, Powell told reporters that 10 Americans and a large number of other nationals were killed.
"It seems we have lost 10 Americans killed," He said. "Many other nationalities were also killed."
Details of the Attack
Smoke rose into the night sky from one of the attacked compounds, located in the Garnata neighborhood in eastern Riyadh, and a helicopter circled overhead, scanning the ground with a searchlight. Hundreds of anti-riot police and members of the elite National Guard were evacuating the area and sealing it off as ambulances rushed in.
A Saudi official said that in Monday night's attacks, gunmen in three cars shot their way into the three residential compounds before setting off explosives in the vehicles.
According to reports, the Al-Hamra compound, located in eastern Riyadh on the road to the airport, wsa one target. The other two locations were named as the Cordoval and Gedawal compounds.
Al-Hamra compound houses many international residents living in the Saudi capital. Alongside with Arizona compound, and Granada Village, the three are the most elite compounds in Riyadh that are especially attractive to foreigners.
An American who lives in one of the targeted areas told AP from Riyadh that there was extensive damage to property and that he believed there had been some deaths.
Three Boeing Co. employees were slightly injured by flying glass, said Boeing spokesman Bob Jorgensen. They are among a group of 12 Boeing instructors training Saudi Air Force on operating Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) jets, the spokesman said.
Witnesses at the Garnata compound said the force of the blast shook nearby buildings and rattled windows. Witnesses also reported hearing gunfire moments before the car exploded. The compound is owned by Riyadh's deputy governor, Abdullah al-Blaidh.
The fourth blast went off at the headquarters of the Saudi Maintenance Company, also known as Siyanco, early Tuesday morning. The company is a joint-owned venture between Frank E. Basil, Inc., of Washington, and local Saudi partners, the officials reported. (Albawaba.com)
© 2003 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)