Riyadh, Nov. 8 (Reuters): The US shut its diplomatic missions in Saudi Arabia today and its close ally Britain declared there was a high threat of terrorist attacks in neighbouring Bahrain and Qatar.
Warning that guerrillas could be on the verge of carrying out attacks in Saudi Arabia, both Washington and London urged their nationals in the Gulf Arab state to remain vigilant. “The embassy continues to receive credible information that terrorists in Saudi Arabia have moved from the planning to operational phase of planned attacks in the kingdom,” said a US advisory published late yesterday.
Diplomats estimate there are 35,000 US and up to 30,000 British citizens in Saudi Arabia. Osama bin Laden, in an audio tape released last month, promised suicide attacks inside and outside the US. Supporters of the Saudi-born militant have threatened both Saudi rulers and Western expatriates who hold key jobs in the kingdom.
Suicide bombers killed 35 people, including nine Americans, in an attack on Western residential compounds in Riyadh six months ago. Saudi Arabia blamed bin Laden’s al Qaida network and launched a crackdown on Muslim militants. “God willing, we will obliterate them soon... We are hunting them down regardless of how long it takes, until we rid this country of them,” Crown Prince Abdullah, the country’s de facto ruler, said today.
Five militants have died in clashes with security forces since Monday, when authorities said they had foiled a planned attack on Muslim pilgrims in the holy city of Mecca. But diplomats say a statement posted on an Islamist website on Wednesday by Mujahideen of the Arabian peninsula” suggested Westerners were in the militants’ sights. Diplomats who saw the statement say it condemned both “Crusader” Western powers and “tyrant” rulers of Saudi Arabia but made clear that for now the targets were foreigners. “We are proceeding ahead along the path we have begun, targeting at this stage the soldiers of the cross, avoiding the tyrants,” it said.