'Despicable' Saudi Bombings 'Have Fingerprints' of Al Qaeda
By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May. 13, 2003 Three suicide bombings in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, May 12 were a "well-planned terrorist attack," Secretary of State Colin Powell said today while touring some of the damaged areas.
Speaking in Indiana, President Bush called the attacks "the ruthless murder of American citizens."
Suicide bombers attacked three residential areas with high concentrations of Americans and other Westerners at about 11 p.m. local time, shortly before Powell arrived in the city for a scheduled visit. Press reports put the death toll at 29, including nine terrorists, with nearly 200 others injured in the blasts.
Powell originally said there were 10 Americans killed in the attacks. Later, he said "maybe a little less." He added that he would leave official announcements to the Saudi Information Ministry.
During his visit to one of the blast sites, the secretary said the attacks have "all the fingerprints" of an al Qaeda operation.
"This is criminality, terrorism at its worst, and there is no justification for it in any way, shape, fashion or form," Powell said.
He assured reporters that the events of the previous day will only serve to steel America's resolve to "go after this type of terrorism and roll it up." He said American and Saudi officials will continue to work closely to target terrorists' finances, information and intelligence systems.
"This is why the president has said that (fighting terrorism) has to be a No. 1 priority, not only for the United States but for the civilized world, so that things like this cannot continue to happen," the secretary said.
During a speech on the economy at the Indiana State Fairgrounds, Bush said the United States is facing a challenge in protecting its citizens from terrorism.
"(The) attacks in Saudi Arabia, the ruthless murder of American citizens and other citizens remind us that the war on terror continues," he said today as he expressed sympathy for those injured and for the families of those killed.
"These despicable acts were committed by killers whose only faith is hate," Bush said, adding that the United States will find the killers.
"And they will learn the meaning of American justice," he said to strong and extended applause.
The cheers and shouts continued as Bush said, "Anytime anybody attacks our homeland, anytime anybody attacks our fellow citizens, we'll be on the hunt, and we'll find them, and they will be brought to justice.
"Just ask the Taliban."
The president said officials estimate operations in Afghanistan brought about the deaths of about half of al Qaeda's senior operatives. The other half is on the run.
"We will be patient and we'll be relentless, because that is our obligation to future generations of Americans," Bush said, "an obligation which says that we must work hard to make sure people can grow up in freedom and peace in this country."
He said liberating the people of Iraq was another battle in the war on terrorism. "Thanks to our United States military and coalition forces, America is now more secure," the president said. "The world will be more peaceful, and the Iraqi people are free."
The American military's next task is securing and rebuilding Iraq. "A free Iraq will make the world more peaceful. Because you see, when people are free, they're less likely to promote terrorism," Bush said. "When people are free, they're more likely to work to realize their aspirations in a positive way.
"Freedom around the world will bring peace," he added. "And that's why America stands so strong for free people everywhere across this globe."