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5 Dead as Suicide Bombings Shake Riyadh; al-Qaida Blamed - 2003-11-09


Saudi officials are blaming suspected al-Qaida terrorists for the early morning suicide bombing at a residential compound in Riyadh. Arabic television stations from Riyadh gave conflicting reports of the number of dead. At least five people are known to have died, but some diplomats say the death toll could be much higher. Officials say at least 80 people were wounded in the explosions. Saudi officials say the death toll from the late Saturday blast could rise, once rescuers dig through the rubble of the Muhaya complex in Riyadh, where fires raged hours after the bombing.

Saudi Television continued Sunday to interview the wounded from the blast, which targeted a compound where mostly foreign Arabs and some Westerners live.

One women, whose name was not given, was interviewed as she sat in what the TV said was a Riyadh hospital. She wore a veil and was sitting in a wheelchair. She said she was in her apartment with her husband when they heard gunfire.

"We heard the sound of a pistol," she said, "and that was it. Later we didn't know what happened. There was an explosion." She said she was inside the house at the time of the blast.

Another man was interviewed, holding his small son in a blanket. He said the boy was home with a maid when the blast occurred.

"He got a cut on his head and on his side, and he had to have stitches," said the man. "We had left him home with the maid because we were out visiting. For sure, many were wounded."

All of those interviewed were Arabic speakers, and all were residents of the targeted Muhaya complex, which official Saudi TV said housed mostly Arab expatriate workers.

A heavy set man shown by Saudi TV sitting in the hospital and crying, said he didn't think Muslims would carry out such an attack.

"This has nothing to do with Islam," he said. He said he and his wife and children heard the explosions first and then bullets. "We tried to take shelter and move to a higher floor, the explosion shattered glass and hit my child," he said.

The huge explosion and two smaller blasts rocked the upscale al Muhaya complex near the capital's diplomatic quarter around midnight local time. About 200 homes are located inside the compound.

Saudi authorities have confirmed the deaths of security officials from Sudan and another from India. A U.S. diplomat says one American was wounded and another is missing.

There has been no claim of responsibility for the attack, but Saudi officials say they suspect the suicide car bombing is the work of the al-Qaida terror network, which authorities blamed for suicide bombings six months ago which targeted Western residential compounds in the capital.

The May 12 attacks led to an intensified Saudi campaign to rein in suspected Muslim militants. Hundreds have been arrested since then.

The latest attack comes a day after the U.S. embassy and its consulates in the kingdom closed, citing credible information terrorists were planning attacks.

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