Tue, May 20, 2003 - Page 6 News List

Saudi prince says four arrested in Riyadh bombing

AP , RIYADH, SAUDI ARABIA

Saudi Arabia's interior minister says an international effort is needed to crack down on terrorism, but downplayed the role being played by US investigators in probing the Riyadh suicide bombings that he linked to al-Qaeda.

Prince Nayef also said Saudi authorities have arrested four suspects apparently linked to Osama bin Laden's terrorist network over the May 12 attacks on three housing compounds that killed 34.

Asked whether the four men in custody belonged to al-Qaeda, Nayef said, "All indications point to that."

Nayef's comments to reporters were the strongest sign yet that bin Laden's terrorists -- who have carried out deadly strikes from Nairobi to New York -- may have played a part in the bombings in the Saudi capital.

During a tense press conference Sunday, Nayef called for "a concerted international effort" to thwart those who plan such attacks. He did not identify those he suspected of being behind them.

Nayef described a limited role for US investigators in the kingdom, saying they had come to examine "the sites and we welcomed them based on that, for examining only."

More than 60 FBI and other US investigators are assisting Saudi authorities with the probe into yesterday's attacks. US officials have said Americans would be helping, not running, the investigation.

US officials complained about being denied access to evidence, witnesses and suspects after the 1996 truck bombing of the Khobar Towers dormitory that killed 19 US military personnel. This time, both sides have said they expect better cooperation.

Nayef could have been trying to answer any domestic criticism his government is ceding control to the Americans. But the remarks contrasted with interviews Adel al-Jubeir, a Saudi foreign policy adviser, gave on Sunday morning talk shows in the US.

The Americans are "helping us with the investigation," al-Jubeir said Sunday. "They're providing support to us. They're sharing whatever information they have. They're sharing their expertise."

Nayef told reporters that investigators had identified five of the badly mangled bodies of nine Saudi men thought to have carried out the Riyadh attacks. Of the five, three were sought in the probe into a weapons cache found May 6 linked to al-Qaeda.

Saudi authorities have been seeking 19 people over the weapons seizure.

The government had said the 19 were believed to be receiving orders directly from the Saudi-born bin Laden and had been planning to use the seized weapons to attack the Saudi royal family and American and British interests.

Asked if the four detained men belonged to al-Qaeda, Nayef said: "All indications point to that."

Nayef said Saudi Arabia was serious about combatting religious extremism, but did not mean it would alter its Islamic character.

"A separation of religion and state will not happen, this is a country of faith," he said.

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