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State Department Issues Travel Warning for US Citizens in Saudi Arabia - 2003-12-18

The U.S. government is allowing non-essential diplomats and all diplomatic families living in Saudi Arabia to leave the country at government expense. The offer came in a travel warning issued late Wednesday.

The State Department travel warning says the U.S. government continues to receive indications of terrorist threats aimed at American and Western interests in Saudi Arabia. The warning says some of terrorist targets may include transportation centers and civil aviation.

The warning also said terrorists continue to target residential compounds in the Saudi capital Riyadh and other compounds throughout the country.

On May 12, suicide car bombers attacked three residential compounds in Riyadh killing 35 people including eight Americans.

Last month, a suicide car bomber attacked another residential compound in the capital killing 17 people and wounded more than 100 others.

State Department officials said Wednesday the terrorist threat in Saudi Arabia remains at a critical level.

The high level of threat prompted the State Department to authorize the departure of non-essential diplomats and embassy families from U.S. missions in Saudi Arabia. Several dozen American personnel living in Saudi Arabia would be eligible for the free flights, which are being offered on a voluntary basis.

The State Department is also advising other Americans living in the kingdom to consider leaving. There are approximately 35,000 Americans living in Saudi Arabia. The Department is also urging other Americans not to travel to the country.

The most recent car bomb attack prompted the Saudi government to publish the names and photographs of its 26 most wanted militants.

It also began offering large cash rewards for information leading to the arrests of the wanted suspects. One of the suspects was killed in a shootout with security personnel last month, after authorities received a tip from a citizen.