U.S. warns Americans against travel to Saudi Arabia
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The State Department Wednesday urged Americans to defer travel to Saudi Arabia, saying there is "credible information" that terrorists are planning to attack Western interests throughout the country.
"American citizens should remain vigilant, particularly in public places associated with the Western community," the travel warning says. "The U.S. government continues to receive indications of terrorist threats aimed at American and Western interests, including the targeting of transportation and civil aviation."
The latest warning said there is information "indicating that the Seder Village housing compound in Riyadh has been under active surveillance by terrorists."
It goes on to say terrorists have attacked Western housing compounds in Riyadh this year, and "credible information indicates that terrorists continue to target these compounds in Saudi Arabia, particularly in the Riyadh area."
Some U.S. officials said there also is concern about a possible terror threat in Britain. Britain is part of the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq.
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Because of the latest warning, the U.S. embassy restricted its employees and dependents from visiting housing compounds in the Riyadh area between the hours of 6 p.m. and 6 a.m., except for official business.
The travel warning comes one month after the State Department issued a "worldwide caution," warning that the terror group al Qaeda is pursuing actions "more devastating" than the September 11, 2001, attacks, and said chemical or biological weapons could be used.
That caution was based on chatter -- intercepted communications.
Upswings in chatter do not always prompt worldwide cautions. But chatter increased before a caution was issued in late July. The following month four major terror attacks occurred: the bombings of the Marriott hotel in Jakarta, Indonesia, and in Iraq, a mosque in Najaf and the United Nations headquarters and the Jordanian embassy in Baghdad.
Abu Musab al Zarqawi, a Jordanian, is the leading suspect in the suicide bombing of the Jordanian Embassy on August 7. He is also believed to be a leader of the Iraqi terror group known as Ansar al-Islam.
CNN has learned a coalition of Arab, Israeli and European investigators working the case in Turkey strongly suspect that Zarqawi helped organize the four bombings in Istanbul -- two on November 15 and two on November 20 that killed more than 50 people all together.
Western and Turkish officials say the attacks bore the hallmarks of Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network. Though Zarqawi is a close associate of a bin Laden, he directs his own network of terrorist groups.
Saudi officials believe al Qaeda was behind suicide bombings at Riyadh housing compounds in May and November. (Full story)
On November 8, a car bomb exploded at a Riyadh housing compound killing 17 people, mostly Arabs. Saudi officials say they believe al Qaeda was behind the attack, mistakenly thinking the compound housed Americans. (Suspect arrested)
In May, triple car bombings in Riyadh killed 23 people at three complexes housing Westerners. Twelve other bodies were identified as bombers.
Possible targets in Kenya
There is also the possibility of terrorist attacks in the coming days aimed at American and European interests in Kenya, the U.S. State Department warned Tuesday.
The agency said the American embassy in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, received an anonymous letter detailing a threatened attack within the next several days, possibly against Western-owned hotels. While they could not corroborate the threat, they said it was alarming enough to make public.
The Kenya advisory was posted on the Web site for the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
It warned Australians to avoid non-essential travel to Kenya and advised nationals living in the country who are concerned about their safety to consider leaving.
The Kenyan threats had named "American and Western interests in downtown Nairobi, Kenya, specifically the Stanley Hotel and the Hilton Hotel," the U.S. State Department said in a statement.
"The timing of the threat is within the next several days," it added.
Employees at both hotels said they had been made aware of the threats and had taken action to increase security, he said.
The Kenyan government has made no comment on the threats. Armed security officers were seen Tuesday evening around the Hilton, but none were evident at the Stanley.
In 1998, more than 200 Kenyans were killed in the bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi. The attack was blamed on al Qaeda, making it the most deadly of the terror network's strikes on Western interests prior to the attacks of September 11, 2001. (Suspects arrested)