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Saudi Government Heightens Anti-Terrorist Security - 2003-05-14

Officials in Saudi Arabia are blaming the al-Qaida terrorist network for the suicide bombings that killed at least 34 people and wounded nearly 200 more in Riyadh late Monday. The Saudi government says it is tightening security across the kingdom as it searches for those responsible. No one has yet claimed responsibility for the attacks. Amy Katz has the latest developments.

The Saudi government says the Monday attacks on residential compounds which were home to many Westerners are linked to a group of 19 al-Qaida operatives who were involved in a gun battle with Saudi police in Riyadh last week. Police seized a large number of weapons and explosives after that battle, but the 19 suspects got away. Speaking on NBC television Wednesday, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal, said his country will find those responsible and he said the suspected al-Qaida operatives would regret their actions.

“Unfortunately they were able to do their damage. As I say again, whatever success they think they have achieved, they will be sorry for, because this country is now united against them.”

Although armed guards protected the residential compounds, the attackers were able to shoot their way past them and detonate their vehicles which were packed with explosives.

The U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Robert Jordan, also appearing on NBC television Wednesday, said prior to the bombings the U.S. had been asking the Saudi government to increase security at the compounds.

“We also went to the management of some of the compounds and asked them to increase their own security, because, in the final analysis, they have that responsibility.”

In the wake of the blasts, Saudi officials say they are setting up checkpoints and increasing security throughout the country and are asking the Saudi people to cooperate with the measures. The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation is sending a team to help with the probe. The U.S. State Department has ordered all non-essential personnel to leave Saudi Arabia.