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IN THE NEWS - May 17, 2003: Riyadh Bombing Attacks - 2003-05-16

This is Steve Ember with the VOA Special English program, In the News.

At least thirty-four people were killed in three bombing attacks in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, on Monday. More than two-hundred people were injured in the attacks. The bombers drove vehicles carrying explosives into compounds home to Americans and other foreigners.

The dead included eight Americans. American officials warned of the possibility of more attacks to come, including in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

The Saudi foreign minister, Prince Saud al-Faisal, said fifteen Saudis carried out the bombings Monday. Nine of the attackers also died. American intelligence officials said it appeared to be the work of al-Qaeda terrorists.

Crown Prince Abdullah said the attackers have no "Islamic or human values." President Bush blamed what he called "killers whose only faith is hatred."

The attacks happened shortly before American Secretary of State Colin Powell arrived in Saudi Arabia.

State Department officials urged Americans to leave the country. Other Westerners also prepared to leave. Thirty-five-thousand Americans were among the foreign workers in Saudi Arabia.

Relations with Saudi Arabia were damaged by the terrorist attacks in the United States on September eleventh, two-thousand-one. Fifteen of the nineteen hijackers involved in the September eleventh attacks were Saudi. Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden also was born in Saudi Arabia.

Bush administration officials have said Saudi Arabia has done little to stop terrorism. But after Monday's bombings there were promises of cooperation.

Federal officials from the United States are in Saudi Arabia to help investigate the bombings. But the United States and Saudi Arabia have clashed over past terror investigations. That happened after a nineteen-ninety-six attack on an American military housing compound. American officials criticized Saudi restrictions on their efforts to gather evidence.

Some officials say the relationship between Saudi police and American investigators has since gotten better. Saudi officials, for example, have dealt openly with accusations that they did not increase security enough before the attacks. American intelligence officials had feared an attack was coming. The American ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Robert Jordan, said the Saudis did not act on American requests to increase security around the Riyadh compounds.

Saudi officials denied that they ignored the requests. But they agreed there were security problems and promised to improve security measures.

Earlier this month, the United States announced plans to withdraw most of the five-thousand troops based in Saudi Arabia by August. Their presence on land holy to Muslims increased anti-American feelings among Arabs.

This VOA Special English program, In the News, was written by Cynthia Kirk. This is Steve Ember.