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Saudi Arabia Denies Report of Arrests Linked to Suicide Bombing - 2003-11-12

Saudi Arabia is denying media reports that its security forces have arrested suspects in Saturday's suicide bombing of a Riyadh housing complex, which left at least 17 people dead and about 120 injured. Meanwhile, a top Saudi religious figure is calling the attack a flagrant aggression against Islam.

Saudi Interior Minister Prince Nayef told the official Saudi Press Agency that there have been no arrests of anyone up to now.

He was speaking following earlier reports from Arab media and diplomats that the search for suspects in Saturday's attacks on the al-Muhaya housing complex had led to some arrests in and around the capital.

Saudi and U.S. authorities say they suspect that Saudi-born millionaire Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida terror network is behind the attack, in which bombers posing as police officers shot their way into the housing compound and blew up their explosives-packed car.

The London-based Arab magazine al-Majjalla also reported this week that a purported al-Qaida operative had claimed responsibility for the attack and warned of more in the region.

Most of those killed and injured in the attack were Arab Muslims who work in Saudi Arabia and their children. The attack came during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

A senior Saudi religious figure has called the suicide attack a flagrant aggression against Islam.

The kingdom's Islamic Affairs minister Saleh bin Abdul Aziz bin Mohammed al-Sheik told Saudi state television the killing of people is one of the greatest sins in Islam. The minister, who is the most senior Saudi religious authority to speak out on the attack said, he who kills the faithful deliberately, his punishment is eternal hell.

Saturday night's attack has been portrayed by Saudi officials as proof al-Qaida is willing to shed even Arab and Muslim blood in its effort to overthrow the Saudi monarchy. Al-Qaida accuses the Saudi royal family of not being truly Islamic and being too close to the West.

The kingdom is on a campaign to rid the country of what it calls militants belonging to, or linked with, al-Qaida.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, whose country suffered a decade of Muslim militant attacks, has added his voice to continuing Arab and international condemnation of Saturday's attack in Saudi Arabia.

President Mubarak called the attack tragic and said a whole family of Egyptians was killed. He told a meeting of his ruling National Democratic Party in Cairo that terrorism is absolutely repugnant in every sense, no matter what the objective is.