Published November 09, 2003
WASHINGTON – Intelligence officials in Washington warned lawmakers a week ago to expect a terrorist attack in Saudi Arabia, and other strikes like the Riyadh (search) bombing probably are in the works in the kingdom or elsewhere, the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee said Sunday.
Sen. Pat Roberts (search), R-Kan., said he agreed with the Saudi authorities that Usama bin Laden's Al Qaeda (search) network was responsible for Saturday's blast, which killed at least 11 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 Web site of the U.S. Embassy in Riyadh said the embassy and consulates in Jeddah and Dharan would remain closed indefinitely because of the bombing. "Embassy personnel and their dependents in Riyadh are restricting their movements to the Diplomatic Quarter" in the city, the announcement said.
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," Roberts said. "It signals to that family over there, the Saud family, that they are ... a target of terrorism."
Rep. Dick Gephardt, D-Mo., a presidential candidate, agreed and said the Saudis' problem is made more dangerous to the United States by what he said was the Bush administration's lack of a long-term energy policy. A Gephardt administration, he said, would wean the U.S. economy from Middle Eastern oil within 10 years, through an energy program he calls "Apollo 21." He gave no details.
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 U.S. troops to establish a large presence in the kingdom in the early 1990s. The Americans withdrew in August in the aftermath of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.
The Riyadh attack was in a compound in which most of the residents were Arab and Muslim. It indicates, 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, Roberts said:
"I don't think there's any question about it that. ... 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 American diplomats or dependents.
President Bush, Before returning to the White House from the Camp David presidential retreat in Maryland, telephoned his condolences to Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Abdullah. Bush told Abdullah the United States stands with the kingdom in the fight against terror, a White House official said.