The Saudi government has linked Monday's deadly terrorist bombings in Riyadh to Osama bin-Laden's al-Qaida network and is vowing those responsible will be punished. FBI agents are heading to the country to investigate an attack that left eight Americans among the dead. But it's far from certain whether the real perpetrators will ever be brought to justice.
Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal says his government had ample warning that plans for a terrorist attack were underway, especially after a terrorist cell linked to al-Qaida was uncovered in the kingdom only days earlier. "There was news coming from everywhere that they were planning a major attack," he said on NBC's Today TV show. "And we had established a committee with the United States to oversee what we can do, both of us, in order to prevent this attack."
But U.S. Ambassador Robert Jordan says a U.S. warning that terrorists may be about to strike American targets and his request that security be stepped up at compounds housing Americans and other foreigners in the capital Riyadh were not acted upon.
"They did not, as of the time of this particular tragic event, provide the security that we had requested," he said.
Prince Faisal denies receiving the request but does acknowledge gaps in security that allowed 15 terrorists to drive vehicles into gated residential compounds where bombs caused extensive casualties and damage.
"I think if there is one mistake that al-Qaida have done is to do this attack because it now has a united country in front of it in resisting and confronting the work they are doing in Saudi Arabia," he said.
The Bush administration says it is satisfied with Saudi cooperation so far, but State Department Spokesman Phil Reeker expects more anti-terrorism measures to be put in place.
"More has to be done. We have to keep learning from this. We have to keep figuring out additional ways to prevent these, to counter them," he said.
But whether that will include a full investigation and prosecution of those behind the attack is far from certain. A U.S. official tells VOA Saudi authorities are leading this investigation and that it's still uncertain whether they will allow the FBI to send in all the agents the bureau believes it needs to conduct a full investigation.
After the Khobar Towers terrorist attack seven years ago that killed 19 American servicemen near Dhrahan, the FBI complained about a lack of Saudi cooperation, including a refusal to allow agents to directly question suspects. To this day, no one has been brought to justice in the United States in connection with those murders.
"I think this time we have to find out who the perpetrators of this evil act are," he said.
But Khaled al-Maeena, editor in chief of Saudi Arabia's 'Arab News' expects Saudi authorities will again restrict the FBI's access to suspects for questioning. "We are also a sovereign country," he said. "The Saudi authorities have their own way and it is important that they also ask questions."
Along with Osama bin-Laden, fifteen of the 19 hijackers who carried out the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States were from Saudi Arabia. In the time since, Bush administration officials say Saudi authorities have expanded cooperation in the war on terrorism but also stress the country can do more.
One issue now being looked into is why the Saudi government failed to respond to U.S. requests to improve security at compounds housing Americans, given the fact that both governments had already alerted their publics to the increased likelihood of an imminent terrorist attack.