Riyadh, May 16 (Reuters): FBI and CIA agents joined the hunt for masterminds of the Riyadh suicide bombings today as Washington warned Saudi Arabia’s expatriate community of another possible imminent terror attack.
The state department and US officials in the kingdom said they received intelligence of a possible attack on foreign residential compounds in the al Hamra district of the Red Sea port of Jeddah, close to the US consulate and King Fahd’s summer palace.
The warnings came a day after Washington rapped Saudi Arabia for not doing enough to prevent Monday’s triple car bombings in Riyadh which killed 34 peoplein attacks blamed on Saudi-born Osama bin Laden’s al Qaida network.
Eight Americans were killed in Monday’s bombings.
, the first major attack on Western civilians living in Saudi Arabia and the most devastating against US interests since the September 11 attacks. Saudi officials, who have admitted to security lapses, have set up checkpoints across the kingdom and deployed armoured personnel carriers around other complexes.
Residents of one Riyadh compound were moved to a hotel on Wednesday night after a security alert. In another incident, a supermarket was evacuated after a bomb scare.
“We are seriously worried now. Many people are leaving. I’ve lived here for 25 years but if there was another attack, I would also seriously consider going,” said a British doctor in Jeddah.
Residents of a Jeddah compound housing employees of US defence contractor Raytheon, near the al Hamra district, had not been allowed outside since the Riyadh blasts, the doctor said.
There are around 40,000 US and 30,000 British expatriates living in Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest oil exporter.
Around 60 agents from the FBI and the CIA arrived in Saudi Arabia yesterday to help in the hunt for those involved in the attacks. “They will start looking at the compounds today and begin liasing with the Saudis,” the US official said. Security sources said five or six attackers escaped after the bombings, which used two vehicles at three different compounds.
One al Qaida suspect turned himself in just hours before the attack, after Saudi authorities published his name and picture on a wanted list of 19 suspected al Qaida militants, the sources said, but he had so far not provided any leads on the attackers.
Washington’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia Robert Jordan described the kingdom as a “battleground” in the global war against terror and urged US citizens to consider leaving.
But he added that the attacks were directed just as much against the Saudi royal family as against American interests.
“It's clearly an assault on the royal family and a fight to the finish with the royal family here in Saudi Arabia,” he told the British Broadcasting Corporation.
Jordan criticised Saudi Arabia for not responding swiftly enough to U.S. demands for tighter security.
Security sources said Jordan had sent the Saudi interior ministry three letters asking for additional protection for ”soft” U.S. targets since receiving intelligence about the possibility of attacks on April 29.
The last letter, sent two days ahead of the bombing, singled out one of the compounds which was later hit. This was based on evidence from a “safe house” under Saudi surveillance a couple of hundred metres from the Jadawell compound, they said.
Saudi Arabia admitted to security errors as U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft said the bombings made clear Saudi Arabia had a “terrorism problem” that it must address.