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Fears grow for Westerners in Saudi

Smoke rises from the latest attack on Western citizens
Smoke rises from the latest attack on Western citizens

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Al Qaeda is suspected in the fatal bombings.
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INFORMATION
Family members concerned about Americans in Riyadh from inside the U.S. at (888) 407-4747

Or from outside the U.S. at
(317) 472-2328.
SPECIAL REPORT
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LONDON, England -- Concerns for the safety of Western workers in Saudi Arabia have escalated dramatically in the last three years after a series of attacks.

Western diplomats suspect groups sympathetic to al Qaeda have been responsible for several attacks on British and American targets in Saudi Arabia since late 2000.

British as well as Australian workers have been targeted during the past 20 months since the September 11 strikes in New York and Washington in 2001.

Al Qaeda, led by Saudi-born Osama bin Laden, has been blamed by the U.S. for these attacks.

Monday's bombings in the Saudi capital Riyadh, in which at least 10 Americans and many others were killed, is the latest in a series of strikes in the region. (Full Story)

In February, British BAE Systems worker Richard Dent was shot dead as he drove his car in the city. (Full story)

Dent, originally from Merseyside in northwest England, worked as a commercial officer at the defense giant's headquarters in Riyadh and had been based there for more than a decade.

The shooting of Dent, 37, came two weeks after a gun attack on a fellow BAE colleague, who escaped with minor injuries.

It is believed the second victim's car was followed by another vehicle and was fired upon by gunmen five times as he pulled into his home compound in Riyadh.

In June last year, an Australian working for BAE, which employs 2,500 expatriates in the kingdom, escaped unhurt after being shot at five times by a sniper in the city of Tabuk.

The UK's Press Association reported that BAE workers had been warned beforehand to be especially cautious following a rise in tension and anti-Western feeling -- heightened by the recent war on Iraq.

A spokesman said the company had given workers who returned to the UK for the Muslim festival of Eid in February the option of remaining in Britain because of security concerns.

Britain's Foreign Office advised its nationals on Tuesday against all but essential travel to Saudi Arabia, after three suicide bomb blasts reportedly left more than 90 people dead in the capital, Riyadh.

Tension has increased as the U.S. has pursued its war on terrorism in the wake of the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. Many Saudis see the policy as an assault on Islam.

Bin Laden, whose Saudi citizenship was revoked in 1994, has called for the overthrow of the Saudi royal family. He has also called for U.S. troops to leave the country. Fifteen of the 19 suspected September 11 suicide-hijackers are believed to have come from the kingdom.

Two bombings in the capital in late 2000 also killed 48-year-old Briton Christopher Rodway and injured four other people, including his wife Jane. (Full story)

Six Britons, two of whom face public execution, were jailed for the attack and remain in a Saudi prison, PA reports. Two men, originally from Glasgow in Scotland face public beheading after they were convicted of planting the car bomb. Four others are serving 12-year sentences.

Although Saudi officials say the bombings were linked to the illicit alcohol trade, many in Riyadh suspect anti-West extremists who are opposed to the Saudi government's close relationship with the U.S. and Britain.

Many expatriates living in the country believe the blasts were blamed on other Westerners for political convenience.

Most Westerners in Saudi Arabia live in guarded high-walled compounds. Earlier this month, the U.S. government advised Americans against travel there because of increased terrorism concerns.

And last week, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said most of the 5,000 American troops in Saudi Arabia would leave this year.


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