US ‘issued warnings of imminent attack’

INTELLIGENCE officials in Washington warned lawmakers a week ago to expect a terrorist attack in Saudi Arabia, it was reported yesterday.

Other strikes like the Riyadh bombing probably are in the works in the kingdom or elsewhere, said the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Senator Pat Roberts said he agreed with Saudi authorities that Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida network was responsible for yesterday’s blast, which killed at least 17 people, mainly expatriate contract workers.

State Department spokeswoman Amanda Batt said an undetermined number of Americans were among the more than 120 wounded, although she said none of the Americans was hurt seriously.

FBI spokeswoman Michelle Palmer said she had no information about whether the bureau has been asked to help in the investigation or would send agents to Riyadh.

An announcement on the website of the US Embassy in Riyadh said the embassy and consulates in Jeddah and Dharan would remain closed indefinitely because of the bombing.

“Embassy personnel and their dependants in Riyadh are restricting their movements to the Diplomatic Quarter in the city,” the announcement said. Mr Roberts said on Fox News Sunday that said his committee was briefed about a week ago about the likelihood of an attack in Saudi Arabia.

“That’s happened,” Mr Roberts said. “It signals to that family over there, the Saud family, that they are a target of terrorism.”

The Al Saud monarchy has ruled Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of the Arabs and of Islam, since the 1930s under the strict fundamentalist Wahhabi sect.

Bin Laden, a Saudi-born multimillionaire fugitive from the Saudi government, has been a sworn enemy of the government, especially since it allowed US troops to establish a large presence in the kingdom in the early 1990s. The Americans withdrew in August in the aftermath of the US-led invasion of Iraq.

The Riyadh attack was in a compound in which most of the residents were Arab and Muslim. It indicates, Mr Roberts said, “that terrorists really don’t care who they attack. It’s just another example of the global war on terrorism and why this is going to be a long effort”.

Asked about other possible attacks, Mr Roberts said: “they’re going to be very global in nature.

“We had an indication that something could happen in this country and that’s why we withdrew our people from the embassy.”

Despite the tension in Saudi Arabia, the State Department has made no decision to evacuate US diplomats or dependants.

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