The search was continuing in daylight today for two Britons feared killed in a terror attack on a residential compound in the Saudi Arabian capital of Riyadh.
Three explosions rocked the Muhayya compound late last night, a day after the United States warned of possible terrorist attacks in the kingdom.
A British couple and a woman were believed to be staying in the compound. Only the husband has so far been accounted for, a Foreign Office spokesman said early today.
He said: “We believe that there was one British couple staying on the compound and the husband has been accounted for. We also believe a British national may have been on the compound too.”
A Saudi government official said the blast came after gunmen tried to break into the compound and exchanged fire with security guards.
There were conflicting reports about the number of dead and wounded from the blasts, about midnight local time, at the compound in western Riyadh. The official Saudi Press Agency described the attack as “terrorist”.
Early estimates of the death toll have ranged from two to 30.
The manager of the targeted compound estimated 100 people were wounded, and a resident said 20 to 30 people were killed, Al-Arabiya TV said.
The Saudi Ambassador to Britain, Prince Turki al-Faisal, today condemned the bombings.
“This is a terrible event carried out by evil people whose sole aim is the destruction of the kingdom,” he said.
“It goes against the grain of all humanity.
“We extend our total heartfelt sympathy to the innocent victims and families of all those hurt and affected by this bombing.
“We understand that most of these victims are women and children. We are committed to fighting those behind this evil cult with all and every possible resource.
“This evil must be stopped. The government of the kingdom of Saudi Arabia is totally committed to this.
“We thank God at least, following recent improved security measures, the bomber was unable to enter the compound where much greater and unthinkable damage, destruction and death could have been caused.
“We call on all the people of the world to work with us in fighting this evil and ridding the international community of this plague.”
On May 12 this year, coordinated bomb attacks against residential compounds in Riyadh resulted in the death of more than 30 people, with many more people injured.
British Foreign Office travel advice for the Middle Eastern country was updated on Thursday, warning “against all non-essential travel”.
The advice continued: “We believe that terrorists may be in the final phases of planning attacks.”
Yesterday, the US closed its embassy in Riyadh because of terror threats that may include chemical or biological weapons attacks.
The compound targeted last night, which is about six miles west of the city, was mainly occupied by Saudis with a strong contingent of Lebanese.
The scene of the blast was in a state of confusion and it was hoped officials would gain a clearer picture in daylight.
A woman living in the compound said in a telephone interview that “there is lot of blood” at the scene of the explosions.
“I am extremely terrified, I am really scared. I felt it was an earthquake,” the woman said.
“Lots of houses are damaged, windows shattered and police echoing with sirens of ambulances,” she said. “The ambulances were picking up lots of people. It looks like there are lots of people who died.”
A Saudi official said most of the wounded were believed to be children because their parents were out shopping during Ramadan.
Bassem al-Hourani, who said he was a resident at the targeted compound, told Al-Arabiya television in a telephone interview: “I heard screams of the children and women. I don’t know what happened to my friends, if anybody was injured.”
Hanadi al-Ghandaki, manager of the compound, told Al-Arabiya there were 200 villas occupied by Arab tenants, plus four others occupied by one French family, two German families and a British family.
Local police said the explosions were three miles from one of the entrances to the Saudi capital’s diplomatic quarter.