Skip to main content
CNN EditionWorld
The Web     
Powered by
powered by Yahoo!

Dissident says bin Laden behind Saudi attacks

U.S. receives threat of possible attack in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

U.S. investigators Thursday enter the damaged Hamra residential compound in Riyadh.
U.S. investigators Thursday enter the damaged Hamra residential compound in Riyadh.

Story Tools

more video VIDEO
The widow of a victim of the bombing attack talks about her husband.
premium content

Saudi authorities continue to promise full cooperation.
premium content

CNN's David Ensor on U.S. officials warning of more terror attacks.
premium content

CNN's Andrea Koppel on the United States saying it warned Saudis of a potential attack.
premium content
Family members concerned about Americans in Riyadh from inside the United States at (888) 407-4747

Or from outside the United States at
(317) 472-2328.
• 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

LONDON, England (CNN) -- A leading Saudi dissident who broadcasts a nightly radio newscast from London into the Saudi kingdom said he is certain that Saudi exile Osama bin Laden gave the "green light" for Monday's suicide attacks in Riyadh.

Saad al Fagih told CNN terrorism analyst Peter Bergen the attacks in the Saudi capital are "most probably the beginning of an al Qaeda campaign within Saudi Arabia."

Fagih pointed to statements bin Laden made during the Hajj celebration four months ago that called for such a campaign. (Bin Laden statement)

The U.S. State Department Thursday warned it has received an unconfirmed report of a possible terrorist attack to target "in the near future" a complex housing Americans and other Westerners in the Al Hamra neighborhood of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

"While we cannot certify the credibility of the threat, in light of recent events this information is being shared with the American community," the State Department said in a "public announcement." (Full story)

On Monday, nine suspected car bombers hit three residential compounds housing Westerners, killing 25 people, including eight Americans. (More on survivors)

U.S. officials also have said they suspect the al Qaeda terrorist network carried out the Riyadh attacks.

Fagih, a 44-year-old former professor of surgery at King Saud University, was jailed in Saudi Arabia for his involvement in the reform movement there. He is now the director of the London-based Movement for Islamic Reform in Arabia, and he monitors al Qaeda sympathizers within Saudi Arabia. (More on Fagih)

Before the Iraq war, Fagih had predicted that al Qaeda would mount large-scale operations against American targets. He now says there has been some discussion by al Qaeda sympathizers on whether the Riyadh attacks were the ones that were predicted "or just to distract attention from some larger attack" including the "possibility" of an attack within the United States.

Fagih also blamed what he called small-scale bombing and shooting attacks aimed at Westerners in the kingdom over the past two years on a "second circle" of al Qaeda sympathizers unable to carry out larger attacks.

He dismissed Saudi authorities' characterization of those attacks as turf wars over the illegal alcohol trade in the kingdom.

Saudi officials have told reporters they suspect a Saudi al Qaeda member named Khaled Mohammed Musallam al Jehani was the ringleader of the Riyadh attacks. U.S. officials said they do not have information to back up the assertion, but they would not rule it out.

U.S. officials said they believe al Jehani has been in Saudi Arabia recently and "could very well have played a key role." But U.S. intelligence is looking at "a couple of other core al Qaeda types as well," one official said.

Last week, Saudi authorities appealed to the public for help in apprehending 19 suspected terrorists after seizing a cache of explosives and weapons.

Bin Laden has cited the presence of U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia -- the birthplace of Islam and home to its holy city of Mecca -- as a core grievance in his self-proclaimed holy war against the United States.

Seven of the eight Americans killed were employees of a U.S. defense contractor, Vinnell Corp., which trains Saudi Arabia's national guard. (Locations of blasts, Dorrat Al Jadawel, Vinnell Corp. compound)

The Pentagon kept an estimated 5,000 troops in Saudi Arabia after the 1991 Persian Gulf War but is withdrawing them after ousting Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein in April.

U.S. forces will maintain military contacts and training programs with Saudi troops, and "there's nothing that's changed our plans," Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said.

U.S. investigators land in Saudi Arabia

A team of FBI and other U.S. investigators landed Thursday in the Saudi capital to investigate the attacks. The team includes about a half-dozen FBI agents and an undetermined number of U.S. intelligence and State Department representatives.

The U.S. investigators arrived as Saudi officials tried to fend off criticism that they failed to provide added security for the housing complexes after U.S. officials warned that an attack was imminent.

The Saudi ambassador to the United States, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, acknowledged that a request was made for more security at one of the sites subsequently bombed, but he told CNN that Saudi security agencies investigated the site and "found it had adequate security."

"The proof of that is when the attack took place in that compound, unfortunately, sadly, two guards -- one Saudi air force guard and one civilian -- were killed, but they stopped that attack to hurt people inside," Bandar said.

A senior Bush administration official said deputy national security adviser Steve Hadley secretly visited Saudi Arabia before the attacks to ask Saudi officials to improve security immediately at at least one of the Riyadh housing compounds. The Saudis took the request under advisement, another source said.

Initial reports from the State Department to CNN indicated the visit was a couple of days before the attacks, but State officials said Thursday the Hadley visit was nearer the start of the month.

The State Department has ordered the departure of nonessential personnel and family members from all U.S. diplomatic posts in the kingdom after Monday's attacks.

It also urged Americans to use caution in traveling to Malaysia and East Africa, particularly Kenya, because of possible terror threats.

CNN Correspondents Kelli Arena, Mike Brooks, David Ensor, John King, Kathleen Koch and Andrea Koppel contributed to this report.

Story Tools
Subscribe to Time for $1.99 cover
Top Stories
Iran poll to go to run-off
Top Stories
CNN/Money: Security alert issued for 40 million credit cards

International Edition
CNN TV CNN International Headline News Transcripts Advertise With Us About Us
   The Web     
Powered by
© 2005 Cable News Network LP, LLLP.
A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines. Contact us.
external link
All external sites will open in a new browser. does not endorse external sites.
 Premium content icon Denotes premium content.
Add RSS headlines.