Three Britons were hurt as a blast tore through their car in the second such attack in the Saudi capital in a week, officials said Thursday amid high tension in the Middle East due to the Israeli-Palestinian crisis.
Saudi officials said the attacks appeared to be personal rather than politically motivated, although both targeted Britons and came amid anti-western sentiment and Arab anger stirred up by the high Palestinian death toll in clashes with Israel.
The overnight explosion occurred in Riyadh's upmarket Suleimaniyeh district, police said, while the British embassy said it was also near the military airport.
The two men and a woman in the car, all expatriates working in Saudi Arabia, were injured in the blast and hospitalised, he said. One of them was in stable condition with injuries to his right leg, while the other two suffered only minor injuries.
"It was an explosion, but we don't know what caused it. None of the injuries is life-threatening," said a British embassy official, adding the three Britons worked for different Saudi companies but not giving their names.
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia's deputy interior minister, quoted in Okaz newspaper, did not rule out a link with last week's attack that killed one Briton.
"The (latest) incident is a rare case; it had no political dimension and was primarily a personal affair," Prince Ahmad bin Abdul Aziz said, adding that police were looking into a possible link between the two "identical" attacks.
On November 17, a 47-year-old Briton working at a military hospital in Riyadh, Christopher Rodway, died and his wife, Jane, was slightly injured by a suspected car bomb.
In London, a Foreign Office spokesman said the ambassador in Riyadh was in touch with Saudi authorities "asking them to establish whether there is any link between these explosions and to establish the cause."
"We are pressing them to work as quickly as possible," she added.
Britain's embassy said the 30,000-strong British community in Saudi Arabia had been advised to keep on their guard, amid the spiralling tension in the Middle East.
"Everybody knows already because it's a small community. We've been telling everybody to remain extremely vigilant," the embassy official said.
On Monday, the Foreign Office already stepped up its travel advisory. "We believe that Saudi Arabia is one of a number of countries where there is an increased threat to British interests from global terrorism," it said.
Saudi Interior Minister Prince Nayef bin Abdul Aziz has said last week's blast, which took place shortly before the opening of an international energy forum in Riyadh, also seemed to be "a personal affair."
He said British authorities would take no part in the investigation. The victim's wife, meanwhile, has assured the embassy that the couple had no enemies in Saudi Arabia.
Against the backdrop of the Middle East violence that has now cost more than 260 lives in eight weeks, US forces have been placed on maximum alert in most of the Gulf Arab states since the October 12 deadly bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen.
During a tour of the region last week, US Defense Secretary William Cohen warned of the dangers of a spillover of violence.
His own plane was twice the victim of false alarms of missile attacks and fired off decoys as it flew over Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, according to co-pilot Bob Allardi.
A June 25, 1996 truck-bomb attack on a US military housing complex in the eastern Saudi city of Dammam killed 19 US servicemen, a year after an anti-US bomb attack in Riyadh killed five Americans and two Indians.
The attacks were blamed on Islamic militants seeking to drive out US forces – RIYADH (AFP)
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