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Saudis, Americans Had Worked to Prevent Riyadh Attacks

By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 14, 2003 – American and Saudi intelligence and law enforcement officials had been concerned about an upcoming attack and "came close" to preventing it, the Saudi foreign minister said this morning.

"There was news everywhere, coming from everywhere that they were planning a major attack," Prince Saud al-Faysal said during an interview on NBC's Today show. "We had established a committee with the United States to oversee what we (could) do, both of us, to prevent this attack from happening.

"We came close," he added. "We came indeed very close to doing that. But unfortunately they were able to do their damage."

Al-Faysal put the number of dead from the three simultaneous attacks at 34, with another 194 injured, many seriously. U.S. State Department officials have said eight Americans were killed in the May 12 car bombings in residential areas with high concentrations of Westerners.

President Bush May 13 pledged the attackers would face justice. "It doesn't matter how long it takes; the war on terror goes on," he said while touring a tornado-devastated town in Missouri.

When asked by a reporter if al Qaeda, the terrorist group believed to be responsible for these attacks, had money available, Bush replied, "It doesn't take much money to put a car bomb together.

"It takes hatred; it takes hatred in your heart," he continued. "It takes an absolute disregard for innocent life, and that's the nature of al Qaeda."

The president said he couldn't say for sure al Qaeda was behind the attacks, "but I wouldn't be surprised if it was."

The Saudi government has pledged to help crack down on terrorists operating in their country. In a televised May 13 speech to the Saudi people, Crown Prince Abdallah, the country's de facto ruler, committed his "country, people and government to an everlasting war to rid not only our country but the world of this scourge," al-Faysal said during his Today interview.

U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Robert Jordan, during a later interview on the same program, confirmed the Saudi government's cooperation. "I think the crown prince and Prince Saud (al-Faysal) are sincere in their statements," Jordan said.

However, he said, he was not completely satisfied with assistance from Saudi security forces. State Department officials had requested more security at Western housing complexes before the attacks and "would have preferred a quicker response" from the Saudis.

Jordan called the attack sites "horrific" and said they reminded him of the 1995 Oklahoma City and other bombing sites. "It's one of the worst things I've ever seen," he said.

The ambassador also confirmed that U.S. and Saudi officials had been working to prevent such attacks. He noted that Americans living in Saudi Arabia had been warned of threats and told to increase their vigilance.

"We also, through the State Department, issued repeated warnings to Americans that if they didn't really have to be in the kingdom, they should consider leaving," Jordan said. The State Department today ordered an evacuation of all non-essential personnel and family members.

"Westerners are very concerned right now, certainly the most concerned I've seen them since I've been here. There is a great feeling of uncertainty as to the security situation," Jordan said. "We are certainly urging all Americans, if they do not absolutely have to be in the kingdom to take every step to leave. And those who are considering coming should certainly defer their travel until some later date."

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