Mon, Nov 10, 2003 - Page 1 News List

Explosions rip through Riyadh compound

DEADLY INTENTThe Interior Ministry said two security guards were killed in a suicide car bomb attack that targeted a residential area of the Saudi Arabian capital


Three explosions rocked a residential compound in the Saudi capital, wounding more than 100 people and killing at least 11 in what the government described as a suicide car bomb attack.

The Saturday night blasts came after gunmen broke into the upscale Muhaya compound of about 200 houses and exchanged fire with security guards, a Saudi government official said.

An Interior Ministry official said on condition of anonymity that the compound attack was by a suicide car bomber and similar in style to a series of car bombings in the Saudi capital on May 12 that were blamed on the al-Qaeda terror network and that killed 35 people, including nine suicide bombers. He said he did not know how many took part in the attack.

Some witnesses said the car bombers used what appeared to be a police car. The Interior Ministry official said 122 people were wounded, most of them children and women; and that the 11 dead included Saudis, Lebanese, Sudanese and Egyptians.

Immediately after the explosion, there were widely conflicting reports of the death toll. A Riyadh hospital official said dozens were killed, but he later said only "a number" of people died without specifying a figure.

Early yesterday, al-Arabiya TV, quoting unnamed Saudi sources, said five people were killed. It also reported the discovery of an unspecified number of bodies belonging to attackers involved in the blast.

Lebanon's al Hayat-LBC satellite channel, quoting Saudi security sources, also said five people were killed, including a child.

In comments published yesterday on the Web site of Saudi daily Okaz newspaper, Interior Minister Prince Nayef said they could not rule out a connection to terrorist cells targeted in recent sweeps, as a number of suspects from those cells were still at large.

The attack occurred a day after the US Embassy issued a warning that terror attacks could be imminent in the tense Gulf kingdom, which has been cracking down on homegrown militants since the May 12 bombing in Riyadh that killed 35 people, including the nine attackers.

America's three diplomatic missions in Saudi Arabia were closed on Saturday as a result and remained closed yesterday.

On Oct. 25, the US Embassy in Riyadh said it continued to receive information that terrorists were planning future operations and urged Americans to be "particularly vigilant" during the holy Islamic fasting month of Ramadan.

Diplomats and officials on Saturday said most residents in the compound, which is located in a valley, were Lebanese. Some Saudis also live there, plus a few German, French and Italian families.

Officials at the King Khaled Specialist Hospital and the King Faisal Special Hospital & Research Center said both hospitals received 38 wounded people.

In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Amanda Batt said one American was wounded and another was unaccounted for.

Al-Arabiya television showed shots of wailing children and bloodied men and women being treated at hospitals. It later reported that among those injured were three Americans and three Canadians of Arab origin.

Witnesses at the site saw four residential buildings destroyed, with an area of about 50m2 reduced completely to rubble.

"We heard a very strong explosion and we saw the fire," Bassem al-Hourani, a compound resident, told al-Arabiya.

"I heard screams of the children and women. I don't know what happened to my friends, if anybody was injured," he said. "All the glass in my house was shattered."

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