RIYADH, Saudi Arabia – Saudi Interior Minister Prince Nayef (search) on Tuesday denied reports of arrests in a car bombing that killed at least 17, while a purported Al Qaeda (search) claim of responsibility blamed Arab victims of the attack for working with the Americans.
"Nobody was detained yet," Prince Nayef said in a statement carried by the official Saudi Press Agency.
Saudi security officials had earlier told The Associated Press that possible suspects were being held in connection with Saturday's bombing. Others detained might have information about the activities of militants in the kingdom that police could use in their investigation, the officials said on condition of anonymity.
Also Tuesday, a purported Al Qaeda operative was reported to have made the first claim of responsibility for the attack on the housing compound.
The claim of responsibility -- the first for Saturday's blast -- came in an e-mail from a purported Al Qaeda operative, identified as Abu Mohammed al-Ablaj, to the London-based weekly Al-Majalla.
"We struck Muhaya compound," Al-Majalla quoted al-Ablaj as saying in the e-mail. Al Qaeda, it said, believes "working with Americans and mixing with them" is forbidden.
American and Saudi officials had previously blamed Saturday's attack on Usama bin Laden's (search) terror network, which opposes the United States and the Saudi ruling family. Saudi officials have portrayed the attack as proof of Al Qaeda's willingness to shed Arab and Muslim blood as well in its zeal to bring down the Saudi monarchy.
The Al-Majalla magazine, which said the e-mail was first seen late Monday, released a statement about it Tuesday.
The magazine has been receiving e-mails from al-Ablaj since earlier this year and has printed several, including one warning of attacks during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, now underway.
A U.S. counterterrorism official has said al-Ablaj, also known as Abu Bakr, was believed to be a leading Al Qaeda figure.
The Saudi-born bin Laden's terror network has long opposed the Saudi royal family, accusing it of being insufficiently Islamic and too close to the West, particularly the United States.
At least 13 of those killed Saturday were Arabs, with four still unidentified. Five of the dead were children. Another 122 people -- including some Americans -- were wounded.
Prince Nayef, who was visiting Tunisia, told the Saudi Press Agency that "the courageous" Saudi security forces "will continue chasing those criminals until they catch them and bring them to justice."
"We will not open dialogue with them (terrorists); we will deal with them using the rifle and the sword."
In an e-mail sent to the magazine last month, al-Ablaj warned that Al Qaeda "is getting ready to stage devastating attacks during the month of Ramadan against Americans that will make young boys' hair turn gray." It added that attacks in Iraq were possible.
In recent weeks, insurgents in Iraq have accelerated their deadly strikes against U.S. and coalition forces.
On Tuesday, a police investigator at the scene of the explosion confirmed earlier witness reports that the attack vehicle apparently was a sport utility vehicle painted to resemble a police car.
The investigator, speaking on condition of anonymity, also said one of the four unidentified victims was believed to have been in the explosives-packed vehicle.
Forensic teams were still bagging debris for evidence Tuesday. The compound was evacuated, but a few families were allowed to retrieve personal items. Work crews swept up shards of glass and other debris.
After a Cabinet meeting on Monday, King Fahd vowed to capture the "terrorists" behind the attack and their supporters. He said the kingdom "will strike with an iron fist all those who try to meddle with the security of the country and the stability and safety of its citizens and residents," the SPA reported.
The U.S. Embassy and two consulates in Saudi Arabia, which closed Saturday before the bombing because of warnings of an imminent attack, will remain closed at least through Friday, an embassy spokeswoman said.
But after a review of the threat level, U.S. Embassy staff and their families were told Monday they could travel outside Riyadh's heavily guarded diplomatic quarter, where they were restricted after the attack.