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Terrorist Bombings Hit Saudi Arabia - 2003-05-14

U.S. and Saudi officials are denouncing suicide bombings at three housing complexes in Riyadh that housed many Westerners. Saudi officials say at least 29 people are dead – including 7 Americans and 9 suspected bombers. Hundreds of others were wounded in the simultaneous explosions, which U.S. officials suspect may have been the work of the al-Qaida terror network. Robert Raffaele has the latest.

The Saudi Interior Ministry says the attackers shot their way into the three, gated housing complexes, before blowing up several cars packed with explosives. The blasts blew off the facades of several buildings, scattering burned out cars and pickup trucks across the complexes.

Inside one building, a stopped clock displayed 11:28 p.m. That’s around the time witnesses say loud explosions awoke them Monday night.

Tuesday, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell toured the scene, while on a scheduled visit to promote the U.S.-backed ‘road map’ for Middle East peace. Mister Powell said the attack was well-planned, and showed what he called the ‘fingerprints’ of an al-Qaida operation.

“Understand that what you see here today, and the damage you see here today will not deter the United States, and I’m sure will not deter Saudi Arabia in our mutual effort to go after this kind of terrorism, and roll it up, go after their finances, go after their information systems, their intelligence systems, make sure we take full advantage of our law enforcement assets, both in the United States, Saudi Arabia, and around the world.”

During a speech in the Midwestern U.S. city of Indianapolis, President George W. Bush offered his condolences to the victims’ relatives, and echoed Mister Powell’s pledge to hunt down terrorists.

“These despicable acts were committed by killers whose only faith is hate, and the United States will find the killers, and they will learn the meaning of American justice.”

Saudi police seized hundreds of kilograms of explosives near one of the compounds last week. Earlier this month, the State Department warned Americans against traveling to Saudi Arabia, citing increased concerns about terrorism. Tuesday, Britain issued a similar warning to its citizens.

JUNE 26, 1996
This is the latest attack on U.S. targets in the Saudi kingdom since the 1991 Gulf War. Islamic militants are suspected in two previous explosions, including the 1996 bombing of a fuel truck outside a U.S. military housing complex outside of Dhahran. 19 American soldiers were killed. 400 others were wounded.