Tue, Nov 11, 2003 - Page 6 News List

Saudis pledge to capture al-Qaeda's `perpetrators'

RIYADH ATTACK As the death toll from Saturday's suicide attack rose to 17, including five children, Saudi officials promised to rid the country of 'wicked people'

AFP , RIYADH

Destroyed vehicles litter the devastated housing complex on Sunday at the site of Saturday night's attack in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

PHOTO: AP

Saudi Arabia vowed yesterday not to rest until the capture of suspected al-Qaeda militants who blew up a housing compound killing at least 17 people, wounding about 120 more and sparking world outrage.

"We will get the perpetrators ... who claim to be Muslim," Interior Minister Prince Nayef bin Abdul Aziz said, insisting the kingdom would not be destabilized as US President George W. Bush offered full support.

"We will get to them, God willing, no matter how long it takes," Nayef pledged after inspecting the devastated al-Muhaya residential compound west of Riyadh.

"This will be the job of all the sons of this homeland, chiefly security forces, until we can rest assured that our country is free of devils and wicked people," he said.

Witnesses and officials at the scene described the midnight Saturday attack in the middle of the holy month of Ramadan as a suicide bombing, but it was not clear if one bomber or more were involved.

Bush telephoned Crown Prince Abdullah to assure the de facto Saudi leader that the US "stands with Saudi Arabia in the war against terrorism," a White House official said.

US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, meanwhile, met Abdullah in Riyadh for talks focusing on the fight against terrorism, saying he believed al-Qaeda was "probably" behind the attack.

The objective of the al-Qaeda group headed by Saudi-born Osama bin Laden was "to bring down the Saudi government as well as to create fear and spread terror," said Armitage.

Nayef suggested the bombers were Islamist radicals, hundreds of whom have been rounded up by security forces since similar bombings against three residential compounds in Riyadh left 35 people dead on May 12.

A Saudi official told reporters that the carnage bore the hallmarks of al-Qaeda.

"The method in which the bombing was executed is similar to that used in the May 12 bombings," said the official, requesting anonymity.

"This confirms that those who carried out the bombing belong to the al-Qaeda movement," he said.

Nayef said he wanted to tell the bombers "and those behind them that this country will continue to stand tall and will not be shaken by evil acts."

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan was "horrified," said UN spokesman Fred Eckhard.

The Saudi ambassador to London described bombers as an "evil cult" bent on destroying the kingdom as Arab leaders led strong condemnation of the attack.

Prince Turki al-Faisal called on "all the people of the world to work with us in fighting this evil and ridding the international community of this plague."

The Saudi interior ministry revised overnight the death toll to 17, including five children.

The dead included seven Lebanese, four Egyptians, one Saudi and one Sudanese, a ministry official said, adding that the nationalities of the remaining four fatalities had not yet been determined.

The ministry said earlier Sunday that 122 people were wounded in the blast, most of them slightly. However 25 remained in hospital with more serious injuries.

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