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U.S. worried about more al Qaeda attacks

U.S., Saudis suspect terror group in Riyadh bombings

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A Saudi police officer stands in front of a destroyed building in the Al Hamra compound.

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Al Qaeda is suspected in the fatal bombings.
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Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince reacts to the suicide bombings.
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Bush and Cheney vow to bring the killers to justice.
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CNN's Christiane Amanpour on Americans who live in Saudi Arabia.
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INFORMATION
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SPECIAL REPORT
• Interactive: The hunt for al Qaeda
• Audio slide show: Bin Laden's audio message, 2/03
• Special report: Terror on tape
• Special report: War against terror

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (CNN) -- President Bush said Tuesday that he wouldn't be surprised if al Qaeda were behind the suicide bombings in Saudi Arabia, and other U.S. officials said they were worried that the terrorist group might be planning new attacks.

The triple car bombings Monday night killed at least 21 people, including eight Americans and seven Saudis, authorities said.

Nearly 200 others were wounded in the blasts, including 17 Americans. One State Department official said some of the wounded Americans are "in pretty bad shape."

U.S. and Saudi officials said it appears that the simultaneous attacks in the Saudi capital were the work of al Qaeda, the terrorist organization headed by Saudi exile Osama bin Laden.

Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah said Tuesday that there is "no place for terror" in his country and vowed to "destroy" the group responsible for the attacks. Another Saudi official called the bombings "a declaration of war against Saudi Arabia."

The three residential compounds targeted included one used by an American defense contractor and one owned by a pro-Western Saudi billionaire.

Nonessential U.S. personnel ordered out

U.S. officials said they are concerned about the possibility of more attacks, and on Tuesday the State Department ordered the departure of all nonessential U.S. personnel and their family members from Saudi Arabia.

The move covered personnel assigned to the U.S. Embassy in Riyadh and the two consulates in Jeddah and Dhahran.

"We're very concerned about additional attacks," said a U.S. official. He declined to be more specific.

Bush said Monday's attacks were "very well-planned," and that the perpetrators would face "American justice.

"I can't say for certain it was al Qaeda yet, but I wouldn't be surprised if it was," Bush told reporters after touring a tornado-damaged town in Missouri. "The war on terror goes on." (Full story)

An FBI team, meanwhile, was dispatched to Riyadh to conduct an investigation.

"What is to be learned from last night is that al Qaeda is still there and still capable of striking us -- and we have to be vigilant," FBI Director Robert Mueller said.

The bombings also killed the nine suspected bombers, whose bodies were found at the scenes of the explosions, Saudi officials said. (Locations of blasts, Dorrat Al Jadawel, Vinnell Corp. compound)

Arriving in Riyadh on a previously scheduled visit, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell condemned the attacks, which he said bore the "fingerprints" of the al Qaeda terrorist network. (On the scene: Peter Bergen)

Touring one of the wreckage-strewn target areas, Powell said the attack had been well-planned and that the facilities obviously had been "cased."

The attacks prompted one of the strongest condemnations of terrorism ever by Saudi authorities, U.S. officials said. Among the Saudis killed in the attack was the son of Riyadh's deputy governor.

"This is a declaration of war against Saudi Arabia and against our society, and we will take on the terrorists and we will rid our society of them," Saudi Foreign Policy Adviser Adel al-Jubeir told CNN.

In a national address, Crown Prince Abdullah vowed to "destroy this small group" of terrorists and those who support them.

"God willing, after that, this group will not be able to stand up again," he said. "There is no place for terror, but there is a place for decisive deterrence against them and to any ideology that feeds them."

The crown prince likened the terrorists to "monsters" who are "devoid of all the Islamic values and human values. Citing the Quran, he said those who carry out such murderous acts are not rewarded with eternal life, but rather "hellfire."

Al Qaeda opposes the Saudi government and the presence of the U.S. military in the country. Of the 19 hijackers who took part in the attacks of September 11, 2001, 15 were Saudi citizens. (Special report)

Attacks follow U.S. warning

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A Saudi civil defense worker talks with a police officer near a destroyed building in the Al Hamra housing compound.

The blasts came less than two weeks after the U.S. State Department warned Americans of possible terror attacks in Saudi Arabia. Last week, the Saudi government issued an all-points bulletin for 19 men -- 17 of them Saudis -- on suspicion of planning terrorist attacks.

In Washington, a senior U.S. official involved in national security affairs said the statement by the Saudi crown prince was "the strongest thing we have ever seen from them."

The State Department said Tuesday that Saudi cooperation in the wake of Monday's bombings was "outstanding."

"We've had excellent cooperation with Saudi Arabia with this attack," Deputy Spokesman Philip Reeker said.

One official said Saudi approval for the FBI team to travel to Riyadh to aid with the investigation came "within hours" of the blast.

"That is the quickest approval by the Saudi government I have ever seen," he said. "It is very significant."

Some U.S. authorities and lawmakers have criticized Saudi Arabia for its cooperation -- or lack thereof -- in cracking down against terrorism. FBI officials were especially critical of what they called a Saudi lack of cooperation in the 1996 investigation of the Khobar Towers bombing, which killed 19 U.S. service members.

Other developments

• Al-Majallah, a London, England-based Saudi newspaper, reported that it received a weekend e-mail message said to be from an al Qaeda member that implied that the attacks were an al Qaeda operation. The e-mail's reputed author, Abu Mohammed al-Ablaj, said in the message that he had "been planning major operations for a long time in the Gulf." A U.S. official called the message "credible." U.S. intelligence officials say a man by the name al-Ablaj, also known as Abu Bakr, is a well-known al Qaeda operative.

• Russian President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday that the Riyadh bombings and an attack Monday on Chechen government buildings that killed 52 people show the continuing need for a global fight against terrorism. "The handwriting of the terrorist acts in Chechnya and Saudi Arabia is absolutely the same," Putin, quoted by the Interfax news agency, said. (Full story)

• U.S. military and intelligence officials are reviewing intelligence collected over the past several weeks for clues to the terrorist attacks in Riyadh, U.S. defense officials said Tuesday. (Full story)

-- CNN correspondents Rula Amin, David Ensor, John King, Andrea Koppel and Brent Sadler, and producer Elise Labott, contributed to this report.


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