Attackers shot their way into three Saudi compounds housing foreigners and set off suicide car bombs, killing at least 11 people in a coordinated overnight terror strike that had the "earmarks of al-Qaeda," according to US Secretary of State Colin Powell, who arrived in Saudi Arabia yesterday on a previously scheduled visit.
Powell, after a briefing by US Ambassador Robert Jordan upon his arrival from Jordan hours after the attacks, said at least 10 Americans were killed. The attacks were followed by a smaller bombing near the headquarters of a Saudi-US company in which no casualties were immediately reported.
In Australia, a Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade spokeswoman said a 39-year-old Australian from Sydney, who worked for a computer company in Riyadh, was among the dead.
The toll was expected to rise. Powell said "there was a large loss of life of others."
A US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said overall casualties appear to be in the hundreds and that several members of the Saudi national guard perished in the attacks. He also said British, German, French, Australian and other Arab citizens were among the casualties.
Saudi officials said at least 50 wounded were taken to the National Guard Hospital, and other hospitals reported at least 10 injured.
A guard at one of the compounds was quoted by the Saudi paper al-Watan as saying that seven cars, all apparently carrying suicide bombers, exploded there. At least three bodies, one identified by the guard as a Sri Lankan colleague, could be seen lying on the ground at the compound yesterday morning. The guard did not give his name.
Justice Department and FBI officials had no immediate indication that other attacks might be planned against US interests at home or abroad.
Powell was greeted on his arrival by Prince Saud, the Saudi foreign minister, who expressed his sorrow and vowed to cooperate with the US in fighting terrorism.
Powell had said earlier the bombings "had the earmarks of al-Qaeda." Al-Qaeda is known for suicide bombings and for coordinated attacks such as the simultaneous car bombings outside American embassies in Kenya and neighboring Tanzania in 1998 that killed some 230 people.
In the Sept. 11 attacks, 19 Arab men -- 15 of them Saudi -- simultaneously hijacked four planes, slamming two of them into New York's twin World Trade Center, a third into the Pentagon in Washington and a fourth into a field in Pennsylvania.