Wed, Dec 08, 2004 - Page 6 News List

Al-Qaeda claims Jeddah attack

BLOODY SIEGE US President George W. Bush said that Monday's attack on the US consulate showed `terrorists are still on the move' and trying to intimidate Americans

AFP AND AP , WASHINGTON AND DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES

The Saudi branch of Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda terror group used an Islamist Web site to claim Monday's unprecedented attack on the US consulate in the Saudi port of Jeddah, stating that some assailants had managed to flee after the operation.

"Your brothers of the squadron of the martyr Abu Annas al-Shami stormed one of the bastions of the American crusaders in the Arabian peninsula, in Jeddah," the statement said.

"They were able to withdraw from the consulate and reach a safe place, after losing two martyrs who covered the retreat of the mujahedeen, three of whom were wounded and are being treated," said the statement signed by the al-Qaeda Organization in the Arabian Peninsula.

Gunmen stormed the consulate on Monday, triggering a bloody three-hour siege and a shootout that left five staff and four attackers dead, Saudi officials said.

The brazen attack was the first of its kind on a diplomatic mission in Saudi Arabia but the latest in a series of bombings and shootings blamed on al-Qaeda in the oil-rich desert kingdom since May last year that have often targeted foreigners.

The attackers raided the Red Sea beachfront consulate compound in broad daylight in a hail of bullets and explosions that set off a fire and sent black smoke billowing into the sky.

The US temporarily closed its diplomatic offices in Saudi Arabia in the wake of the attack.

US President George W. Bush said the deadly attack showed "terrorists are still on the move" and trying to intimidate Americans.

"They want us to grow timid and weary in the face of their willingness to kill randomly, kill innocent people," Bush said.

US State Department officials said the attack appeared carefully planned.

"It's quite clear those terrorists observed our procedures for some time," Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage said.

No Americans were injured in the assault or its aftermath, State Department deputy spokesman Adam Ereli said.

Ereli and other US officials praised Saudi forces who killed or captured the attackers.

The US embassy in Riyadh and the consulate in Dhahran were closed to the public for two days, as was the Jiddah consulate. Only emergency services for Americans will be available.

The embassy urged Americans living in Saudi Arabia to "exercise utmost security precautions."

Additional security forces were sent to Jiddah on Monday, Ereli said. He would not give more details.

Officials were concerned that an attack might be coming.

"We had indications that led us to increase the level of alert and to beef up security in Jiddah and in other areas," said Adel al-Jubeir, foreign affairs adviser to Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah.

The consulate's top diplomat was in her office when the attack began and heard the gunfire, Ereli said. All US employees were able to reach a safe area inside the compound, State Department officials said.

Earlier this year, the State Department ordered all non-emergency employees and their dependents to leave the country because of the danger of terrorists targeting US citizens.

Americans in the country were urged to depart.

In an updated warning in October, the department said that although counterterrorism efforts had been somewhat successful, terrorist groups were continuing to target housing compounds, hotels, transportation and businesses frequented by Westerners.

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