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Small Explosions Rattle Saudi Capital - 2004-09-11

Explosions in front of two foreign banks in Saudi Arabia Saturday have sparked concern of renewed terrorist attacks in the country. No one was injured in the blasts, and it is not yet clear if they were terrorist attacks.

According to observers in Jeddah, the first car bomb went off at about nine in the morning Saturday outside a branch of the Samba Financial Group, formerly known as the Saudi-American bank. There were no casualties or damage to the surrounding buildings.

One of the four men involved was injured. A spokesman for the Ministry of Interior said that the driver of the car was wounded in his hand, and arrested and hospitalized. Al-Arabiya satellite news channel reported that the other men had fled the scene and taken shelter in an house near the U.S. consulate, where they were surrounded by police.

The second explosion, in the trunk of a car, took place in mid-afternoon outside the Saudi British Bank, along one of the city's main shopping streets.

A reporter for the Jeddah Bureau of Arab News, Essam Al-Ghalid, was one of the first at the scene of the second bomb.

"We were the first people to get there," he said. "What we saw was a white limousine, a taxi, like the one used earlier in the day. That bomb went off, causing no damage to the buildings around it."

Saudi police quickly arrived at the scene and disposed of the vehicle, said Mr. Al-Ghalid.

Saudi officials said that both bombings were criminally motivated, but Mr. Al-Ghalid said the attacks sparked unease after the recent terrorist actions in the kingdom.

"It may not be something al-Qaida, it may not be some big organization and at the same time it could be just something criminal," said Essam Al-Ghalid. "But targeting two foreign banks on September 11 it kind of just raises some questions."

In the past months Saudi Arabia has been rocked by a series of terrorist attacks targeting westerners and foreign companies, in which about 90 police officers and civilians have been killed. The Saudi security forces have responded with a widespread crackdown on militants.